New measures to support worker retention in construction, marine, process sectors

SINGAPORE – New measures will be rolled out to support the retention of work permit holders and alleviate the manpower crunch that firms in the construction, marine shipyard and process (CMP) sectors are currently facing.

In a statement on Saturday (Oct 30), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that the worker retention scheme in the construction sector that helps keep experienced workers in Singapore and aids firms in meeting their manpower needs will be extended to the marine shipyard and process sectors.

The scheme allows workers whose employment has been terminated but who wish to continue working in Singapore to find a new job, with job-matching facilitated by the industry association.

The ministry said it has partnered the Association of Singapore Marine Industries and Association of Process Industry to extend the retention scheme to the marine shipyard and process sectors, and that the two associations will share more details on their respective schemes when ready.

Representatives of the associations said that the schemes are expected to be rolled out “in a couple of months”. 

The worker retention scheme was introduced for firms in the construction sector in partnership with the Singapore Contractors Association on Sept 1 and has benefited 52 companies to date.

“This has helped moderate the outflow of workers in the construction sector amidst the restricted inflow of new workers due to Covid-19 border controls,” said MOM.

The scheme for the construction sector will be in place until Feb 28 next year, subject to further review.

At the same time, the change of employer without consent period for work permit holders in the CMP sectors will be shifted to the end of contract.

At present, prospective employers can hire a work permit holder without the original employer’s consent in the 21 to 40 days before the work permit expires.

Going forward, work permit holders will remain in the employ of their current employers until the work permit expires, after which the permit may be extended for a 30-day period subject to mutual agreement between the worker and employer.

The worker may use this 30-day period to look for another employer without the need for consent from his original employer, who also gets to retain the worker for up to 30 days.

Should there not be an agreement between the two parties to extend the work permit by 30 days, the worker will be enrolled in the worker retention schemes and industry associations will facilitate job-matching with a new employer within 30 days.

This adjustment to the change of employer without consent period will be implemented from Nov 8 in the construction sector and progressively from a later date in the marine shipyard and process sectors, the ministry said.

This adjustment will be in place for as long as the retention schemes are in force, with the industry associations to provide more details when ready, it added.

Commenting on this change, the three industry associations said  it provides more certainty in their manpower planning as workers will now have to fulfil their contractual period. 

“This will also reduce the unnecessary anxiety between employers and employees during the change of employer period of 21 to 40 days before work pass expiry,” they added.

A to Z Engineering is among the 52 firms in the construction sector to have benefited from the retention scheme.

Its director, Mr Wee Han De, said that the firm has managed to get one worker through the scheme.

“The company is currently facing manpower shortage and… this scheme has helped to relieve operational needs,” he said, noting that the company currently has 12 workers and has not been successful in getting new workers from abroad since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out last year.

In a Facebook post, the Migrant Workers’ Centre welcomed the new measures. 

“The expansion of the scheme will allow more migrant workers who wish to continue working in Singapore to do so while easing labour shortages in the other sectors,” it said.