Seeking redress for wrongfully dismissed employees

What was meant to be a joyful revelation resulted in an upsetting turn of events for Ms Claudia Chan when she was pregnant with her first child.

After carrying her baby through the first trimester, the 32-year-old manager at an aesthetic clinic shared the good news with her supervisor, the clinic’s director.

She indicated her intention to apply for four months of maternity leave after delivery. At that point, she had worked for the aesthetic clinic for seven years and had not received any negative feedback from her supervisor.

A month after informing her supervisor about her pregnancy, Ms Chan was told that she would be dismissed due to her poor work performance.

She could not understand why she was being fired and wondered if she was being discriminated against due to her pregnancy.

Aggrieved, Ms Chan decided to approach the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) for help.

Timely intervention

After hearing Ms Chan’s case, the TADM advisory officer assured her that the company would not be able to escape its responsibility as an employer by simply terminating her without any basis, especially since she was pregnant. The officer patiently assisted Ms Chan to file a wrongful dismissal claim and arranged a mediation session with her former employer.

As this was a possible case of maternity discrimination, TADM and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) worked closely to review Ms Chan’s complaint to assess if enforcement action was needed.

During the mediation session, the mediator advised both Ms Chan and her former employer of their rights and obligations under the law. Both parties were given an opportunity to state their position, which in turn would allow the mediator to corroborate their accounts and make a fair and independent assessment based on available facts. The clinic management was not able to substantiate its claim that Ms Chan had poor work performance or a poor attitude. On the other hand, Ms Chan was able to provide e-mail correspondences to support her claims that the dismissal came shortly after she had disclosed her pregnancy. She was also able to produce evidence that she had consistently good performance appraisal during her last few years with the clinic.

TAFEP also interviewed the clinic management and reviewed the company’s internal processes and HR practices.

Wrongful dismissal

Both TAFEP and TADM concluded that Ms Chan was unfairly dismissed. TADM urged the clinic to pay her all her outstanding dues to avoid aggravating the matter.

The employer subsequently took TADM’s advice and paid Ms Chan her maternity leave benefits, as well as an ex-gratia payment for causing Ms Chan mental anguish and inconvenience.

As TAFEP had established a clear case of Ms Chan having been discriminated and that she was dismissed due to her pregnancy, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) accepted TAFEP’s recommendation to have the clinic’s work pass privileges withdrawn for a period of 12 months*.

TAFEP also counselled the clinic to give guidance on how it should have handled the situation in line with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair and Progressive Employment Practices. The clinic took the guidance seriously; it enrolled relevant staff to attend TAFEP’s workshop on the Tripartite Standard on Grievance Handling so that the clinic would be able to put in place proper grievance handling procedures.

TAFEP also provided Ms Chan with information on job facilitation services offered by the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and Workforce Singapore (WSG). She eventually succeeded in finding a new job.

*Employers who violate the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices will be debarred from hiring new foreign workers or renewing existing ones for a minimum of 12 months, up to a maximum of 24 months.

Disclaimer: This story is inspired by real cases managed by TADM and TAFEP.

TADM provides advisory and mediation services to help employers and employees manage employment disputes, as well as to help self-employed persons manage payment-related disputes amicably. Employers and employees can approach TADM for advice on resolving disputes related to salary or wrongful dismissal, and to file claims related to these matters.

TAFEP helps employers build workplaces where employees are respected, valued and able to achieve their fullest potential, for the success of the organisation. Employers can approach TAFEP for tools, resource materials and assistance to implement fair and progressive practices at their workplaces. Employees or individuals who encounter workplace discrimination or harassment can seek assistance and advice from TAFEP.

Website: tadm.sg

Website: tafep.sg
Telephone: 6838-0969

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