The amendments cover three broad areas:
- the establishment of an administrative penalty regime to enforce administrative infringements and to complement prosecution efforts. Strict administrative penalties such as debarment and administrative financial penalties will be imposed to discourage employers from exploiting the work pass framework for financial gain. Specifically,
- Commissioners of Foreign Manpower and other officers authorised by the Controller of Work Passes will be appointed to administer the administrative penalty regime; and
- An Appeal Board, chaired by a Supreme Court (or equivalent) judge, will be established to review and assess appeals;
- the inclusion of provisions for key EFMA contraventions and an increase in penalties to ensure that they are commensurate with potential profits. Specifically,
- the Ministry of Manpower will have the power to prosecute syndicates involved in the illegal supply of foreign workers;
- penalties for employing illegal immigrants include a fine of up to $6,000, imprisonment up to 2 years, and mandatory caning for employers who hire more than 5 illegal immigrants;
- foreign workers who submit false documentation or qualification for work pass applications face a fine up to $20,000 and/or imprisonment up to 2 years;
- those guilty of collecting employment kickbacks can be fined up to $30,000 and/or imprisonment up to 2 years;
- employers who illegally recover costs of foreign worker levies, security deposits, insurance premiums etc can be fined up to $20,000;
- employers who inflate their local workforce by paying CPF to “phantom workers” can be fined up to $20,000;
- the introduction of new post-employment work-pass conditions requiring employers to upkeep and maintain workers who are awaiting resolution of statutory claims. Employers who fail to do so can be fined up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment up to 12 months;
- employers who wish to reduce the salaries of the S Pass or E Pass employees will now have to submit a request to the Ministry of Manpower for reassessment of the work pass eligibility. Employers who fail to comply may face fines up to $10,000; and
- the inclusion of new presumption clauses and expansion of investigatory powers to better enforce increasingly complex syndicate operations. Specifically,
- the Ministry of Manpower will have the expanded powers to investigate possible breaches or wrong-doing, including entering and inspecting premises (by force if necessary), take video or voice recordings as evidence, and request to see all foreign and local employees of the company.
The amendments come amidst efforts to better regulate the employment of some 1.2 million foreign workers in Singapore.
The bill can be read here EFMA (Amendments) Bill Aug 2012.