What to do if you are laid off in a time of Covid-19

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It seems like bad news is incessant during this period due to the bleak global economy and we are aware of the long time it will take to recover from this pandemic.

So, what happens if the inevitable happens and we are unable to keep our jobs? There could also be a new trend arising, which is the blurring of the difference between a retrenchment and the firing of an employee. As companies face more financial tightening, some could end up passing off retrenchment cases as a “firing case”.

What’s the difference between being retrenched and being fired?

A retrenchment is made when the company goes through restructuring or when it justifies that the position is no longer required. During a retrenchment, the employee is being let go due to no fault of his/her work performance. On the other hand, when someone is fired, it is usually due to behavioural issues or poor work performance.

In addition, when an employee is retrenched, the company has to pay a reasonable retrenchment package and offer help such as writing referral letters. When it is a termination however, an employee can be asked to leave before the day ends and the company is only required to pay up until the employee’s last working day, with no additional benefits or packages.

What should I do if I am “wrongfully” fired during Covid-19?

Firstly, you may need to ascertain or find out from HR the reasons for your termination. If the company claims it on poor work performance, does it have proof or evidence that it has been happening for a while to justify its actions?

A prime example of an unfair case would be termination due to pregnancy – no prior reports of poor job performance but employee was told to leave after informing HR of pregnancy.

The Ministry of Manpower has issued a statement regarding the treatment of employees during this sensitive period.

“Employers who need to lay off staff during this Covid-19 pandemic should provide retrenchment benefits according to their financial position, and should treat their employees with “empathy and dignity”.

MOM has also issued a new tripartite advisory with NTUC and SNEF specifically for Covid-19 which detailed that, “those whose operations and business prospects have been adversely affected by the virus outbreak should work with their union or the employees to renegotiate a fair package linked to the worker’s years of service with the firm.”

This means that companies, both those doing financially well and those impacted by Covid-19, should not leave employees in the lurch and have to negotiate a fair package for the employee.

Secondly, you may wish to negotiate with your company based on the above tripartite advisory issued by the MOM. If that does not work, you may wish to approach your union for their help in negotiating a fair outcome with the company.

Thirdly, those who do not have retrenchment benefits specified in their employment contracts can still approach the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management for advice and mediation services.

Lastly, retrenched Singaporean and permanent resident employees can also apply for the Covid-19 Support Grant which provides a monthly cash payout of up to $800 for three months to those eligible.

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/fired-or-retrenched-benefits-mom-claims-regulations-labour-12724152

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/manpower/mom-advises-employers-to-pay-retrenchment-benefits-according-to-their-financial

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