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Epica Guide Series

A Guide to Employee Recruitment in Singapore

Are you planning to recruit Employees for your Singapore Company. New business owners have lot of questions about it. Refer to these guide to know more about recruiting employees in Singapore.

Watch the video or read below

Guide to Recruiting Employees in Singapore

Hiring employees is an important milestone after setting up a Singapore company which involves some serious and important decision-making. The hiring process carries with it some legal and ethical guidelines that must be adhered to by both employers and employees. Most of today's employees are well versed in the Singapore Employment Act and have a clear understanding of their rights and protection under different laws. As an employer, knowledge of the dos and donts of recruiting is equally important when hiring employees.

It is essential to ask yourself the following questions before starting the hiring process:

  • What are the labour laws I need to know, and which have a binding effect on me and my employees?
  • Are there any formalities for recruiting local or foreign staff? Is there any bar on me regarding the number of foreign employees that I can hire?
  • Are there any variations between recruiting full-time, part-time, and contract personnel?
  • How much will it cost me to hire an employee? Do I have to pay any levies, contributions from the provident funds, etc.?
  • What are there standard practices being followed in Singapore, in the absence of statutory requirements?
  • Are there any recruitment guidelines, or are there any dos and don’ts that I not need to be aware of?

This guide sheds light on the above-mentioned points like main labour laws, recruiting procedures for local and foreign workers in Singapore, typical management, and recruitment practices. The guide is intended primarily for new companies in Singapore that are looking to recruit employees for the first time. The article lays out a guide which is only for general information and is not intended to replace professional advice.

What is the Employment Act (EA)?

The Singapore Employment Act is the key legislation that sets out certain basic employment terms and conditions. The Employment Act is the all-encompassing statute for Singapore relating to labour and employment issues. It sets out specific regulations regarding the basic terms and conditions of employment, and it also caters to the obligations, tasks and responsibilities of the employers and employees in a Singapore Company.

Implications of Employment Act (EA)

  • Your first step is to know if your employee is covered under the Employment Act of Singapore or not.
  • In case your employee is covered by the Employment Act, remember that the terms you draw from the employment contract cannot be less favourable than those that have been laid out in the Employment Act of Singapore.
  • However, if in case your employee is not covered by the Employment Act, the terms and conditions of employment may be negotiated between the two parties and must be clearly set out in the employment contract once it is finalized. The contract is a legal binding on both parties.

To whom does the Employment Act apply?

Erstwhile Employment Act

Amendment in Erstwhile Employment Act

The Government of Singapore enacted significant changes to the Employment Act (EA) on 1 April 2019. This law affects all the businesses and employees, whether local or foreign who are in a job contract with an employer from Singapore.

The amendments have been designed to improve conditions of employment by expanding the qualification requirements around salary and job grades, resulting in every employee in the private sector now entitled to the rights and protections under the EA.

Core Provision of the Amended Employment Act

Employment Act - Core Provision
  • Core provisions refer to employee entitlements granted to workers (manual labour workers or blue-collar workers), non-workers (non-managers and executives, white-collar workers), and managers and executives (M&Es) earning more than SGD4,500 (US$ 3,240) a month.
  • The pay threshold of S$4,500 was removed after the amendment, allowing for an additional 430,000 M&Es to benefit from employment protection under the EA. The primary protections include:
    • Timely payment of wages
    • Monthly and maternity time paid
    • Public holidays paid
    • Coverage against wrongful dismissal
    • Maintaining evidence of work
  • Before 1 April 2019, non-workers earning up to US$ 1,800 (SGD2,500) were protected by the EA's Part IV provisions (which provide for rest days, hours of work, and other terms of service), with a maximum overtime rate of US$ 1,620 (SGD2,250). With the new law in place, non-workers earning up to US$ 1,872 (SGD2,600) are now protected by the provisions of Part IV, and the overtime rate has been capped at SGD2,600.

Note: The provisions of Part IV do not apply to managers and executives.

Employment Act - NOT applicable

To whom the Employment Act is NOT applicable?

The employment act is not applicable to the following as they are covered by other regulations:

  • Public servants
  • Seafarers, and
  • Domestic workers

Employer must know - Key Features of Employment Act

Following is the tabulated form of the key features of the Employment Act:


Managers / Executives positions

Employees earning > 2,600/month

Employees earning < 2,600/month

Maximum Working Hours in a Week

According to Contract

Common practice: 40-50 hours

According to Contract

Common practice: 40-50 hours

44 hours

Maximum Working Days in a Week

According to Contract

Common practice: 5 days

According to Contract

Common practice: 5 days

6 days

Rules Applicable to the Overtime

According to Contract

According to Contract

72 Hours / Month at Max

Max Overtime rate up to SGD2,600

Payment is given @ of 1.5x of the basic hourly rate

Contribution of CPF for Citizens and PR holders of Singapore

Required Required Required

Yearly Bonus

According to Contract

Normal Practice:

Paid an amount equal to one to four month’s salary

According to Contract

Normal Practice:

Paid an amount equivalent to one to four month’s salary

According to Contract

Yearly Leave - Paid

As per contract

Common practice: 15 days

As per contract

Common practice: 15 days

1st year – 7 days

2nd year – 8 days

3rd year – 9 days

(annual increase up to a max. 14 days)

Sick Leave - Paid

According to Contract

Common practice: 14 days per annum

According to Contract

Common practice: 14 days per annum

Out-patient: Five to Fourteen Days (Basing on the period of employment)

Hospital Admission: 15-60 days (Basing on the period of employment)

Maternity Leave – Paid (if eligible)

16 weeks

First 8 weeks are employer payable for first 2 confinements

16 weeks

First 8 weeks are employer payable for first 2 confinements

16 weeks

First 8 weeks are employer payable for first 2 confinements

Yearly Childcare Leave – Paid (Until the child turns 7)

6 days

First 3 days employer payable

6 days

First 3 days employer payable

6 days

First 3 days employer payable

Infant care Leave – Unpaid (Until infant turns 2)

6 days 6 days 6 days

Paid Public Holidays

11 days 11 days 11 days

Probation Period

As per contract

Common practice: 6 months

As per contract

Common practice: 6 months

As per contract

Common practice: 3-6 months

Termination Notice Period

As per contract

Common practice: 1-3 months

As per contract

Common practice: 1-3 months

As per contract

Common practice: 1 month


As per contract

As per contract

Eligible to:

  • receive salary on last working day
  • receive retrenchments benefits
  • serve notice period

Medical Insurance

As per contract As per contract As per contract

Employers in Singapore – Duties and Obligations

Employee Recruitment - Formalizing

Formalizing Employment Contract

Of all the documents related to the employment of an individual, the employment contract is of vital importance. Because the employment contract lays out the terms and conditions of the job between the hiring authority (employer) and the one being hired (employee). Even if you are able to write the contract on your own, it is best to seek guidance from a lawyer or HR professional who are well versed with such papers. Please note that if the employee is protected by the Employment Act, the contract terms will conform with the minimum requirements set out in the Act.

Employee Recruitment - Key Points

Key Points that must be included in the Contract

  • Appointment position
  • Duration of employment contract, if applicable
  • Date of employment commencement
  • Hours of work
  • Remuneration package
  • Code of conduct
  • Employee benefits
  • Probation clause, if applicable
  • Termination

Employee Recruitment - Reporting

Reporting Employee Earnings

As an employer in Singapore, it is your responsibility to prepare tax forms for all your employees (who have been employed in Singapore) to report their salary/remuneration under the Income Tax Act each year.

Tax issues for Foreign Employees

Employee Recruitment - Tax issues for Foreign

Tax clearance is required for the foreign employees ceasing to work with a Singapore Employer, leaving on a posting abroad, or leaving Singapore for any period exceeding three months. The employer is responsible for ensuring that said employee has paid all taxes. Also, the employer must notify the tax authority (IRAS) and withhold all payments that are due in the name of the foreign employee from the day he / she notifies the employer about his / her plan to cease employment or when the employer decides to terminate the job or post the employee to a location outside the country. Once an assessment is done by the IRAS, a tax clearance certificate is issued, confirming that the employee has paid all the taxes and there are no outstanding dues against him. After the receipt of the clearance certificate, the employer can release any payment entitled to the employee that was withheld earlier.

What rules are applicable to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions?

To local employees

It is mandatory for an employer to make the CPF payment in the name of all local employees (citizens and PRs) who receive more than S$50 a month. According to the Singapore Law, 16 and 20 per cent are the maximum contribution rates for the employer and employee respectively. The rate may be lower based on certain other factors like the age of the employee and the permanent resident status etc.

For foreign employees

CPF contributions do not apply to foreign employees.

Employee Recruitment - Paying Levies

Paying Levies

Government of Singapore collects a Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) for low-skilled and unskilled foreign employees. The foreign labour levy is a mechanism of price control to regulate the demand for foreign workers in Singapore.

Hiring students

Citizens and Singapore PR Holders

Students who are citizens of Singapore or are permanent residents of Singapore can be hired full-time and part-time without any restrictions. If not exempted, all students are entitled to CPF donations. There is no legal need to make CPF contributions if you want to take on students for an internship, as they are only being trained as part of their curriculum in your organization. The common practice is to only pay a monthly allowance for interns.

Foreign Students

Foreign students are not permitted to work in Singapore during term or vacation time unless they are granted a work permit under the Foreign Manpower Employment (Work Pass Exemptions) Notification. In order to employ a foreign student as an intern as part of Industrial attachment program, the employer is required to ask for a Training Work Permit or a Training Employment Pass on his/her behalf. There is no payment levied on the foreign interns as they are only being educated as part of their curriculum in your organisation. The common practice is to only pay a monthly allowance for interns.

Hiring part-time employees and contractual staff

Employee Recruitment - Hiring part-time and contractual staff
  • Part-time employees are defined as those required to work under 35 hours per week.
  • Contract workers are those workers who are employed on a fixed-term employment contract as well as those employed on an ad hoc basis or a casual / on-call basis, as and when the company requires additional staff. The contract only lasts for a specified time period and expires upon completion of the specified task / job.
  • Unlike most other countries, part-time workers and contract workers enjoy virtually the same protection under Singapore's employment laws as permanent full-time workers. However, there is a certain amount of flexibility for both employers and employees, including the pro-rating of employment benefits, annual leave encashment and rest day provision. Please be advised that part-time and contract employees are usually not entitled, as a common practice in Singapore, to certain privileges such as bonuses, medical insurance and other benefits that full-time employees normally enjoy.

Employee Recruitment - Age restrictions

Age restrictions

The legal age to be working in Singapore is 17 years and up. You are, however, permitted to hire children and young people aged 13-16 years. Please note that restrictions are placed on the type of work that children and young people can perform. In Singapore, the retirement age is 62 years.

Hiring Foreign Employees

Given the history of the country in attracting and hiring foreign professionals, the government of Singapore has liberalized the policy for immigration and has also enacted various laws to facilitate the recruitment of foreigners.

Why Singaporean employers recruit foreigners?

Most Singapore businesses hire foreign talent to supplement their local workforce. The reasons for this trend are mentioned below:

Employee Recruitment - Singapore recruit foreigners
  • An ageing population.
  • Decreasing birth rates.
  • Unprecedented economic growth.
  • The lack of adequate local talent for specific job sectors. For instance, IT, business, finance, and R&D are finding a shortage of highly skilled local talent and therefore resorting to hiring foreign labour.
  • Similarly, locals do not prefer certain job profiles, such as construction work and domestic help, leaving no choice but to hire foreign workers.

Categorisation of Foreign Workforce in Singapore

Employee Recruitment - Categorisation

The foreign workforce is divided into three main groups:

  • Skilled professionals (e.g. software engineers, physicians, research and development technicians, etc.) who are given an employment pass.
  • Semi-skilled professionals (e.g. technicians, cooks, administrative workers) who are given the S Pass.
  • Unqualified / Unskilled workers (e.g. construction workers, household help) who obtain a work permit, also known as the R Pass.

Requirement of Work Permit for Employing and Hiring Foreigners in Singapore

Under the Employment Act, to be able to work in Singapore, a foreigner must have a valid work visa. When you plan to recruit a foreigner, you will have to apply on his / her behalf for a work permit before he / she can begin to work for you. Please note that certain passes of work put a limitation on the number of foreign workers that you can recruit.

Tabulated below are descriptions of the different work passes you'll need to apply for depending on which type of foreign talent you're recruiting.

Pass Type

Employment Pass

S Pass

R Pass (Work Permit)

Suitable For

Skilled employees who have a tertiary level of education and corresponding work experience

Monthly salary > S$3,600

Semi-skilled employees who have diploma level education and corresponding work experience

Monthly salary > S$2,300 (2,400 with effect from 1 Jan 2020)

Unskilled workers with relevant work experience

Monthly salary < S$2,000


Issued for 1-2 years initially


Issued for 1-2 years initially


Issued for 1-2 years initially


Quota System



20% of the company’s total workforce


Variable across industries

Eligibility for Dependants Pass

Yes Yes No

Restrictions on Nationality

No No Yes


No Foreign Worker Levy Foreign Worker Levy

General Recruitment Guidelines

Given that Singapore's workforce includes a varied mix of people keeping in view the age, gender, and ethnicity, employers are strongly advised to adopt progressive and fair HR practices, particularly in matters relating to talent recruitment.

Job Advertisements and Employee Hiring Guidelines Under Fair Consideration Framework

The Ministry of Manpower has released specific guidelines on fair employment practices in this regard. The Instructions are summarized as follows:

Employee Recruitment - Job Hiring Framework
  • Employers are urged to follow the meritocracy principle when identifying and hiring job candidates.
  • Abilities, expertise and job performance skills will take precedence over age, race, gender, religion, family status or disability.
  • Selection criteria should be tied to job requirements and should be made known to all job applicants and regularly reviewed to ensure relevance.
  • Advertisements for jobs should avoid mentioning attributes such as age, gender, marital status, race, religion and language unless adequately justified.
  • Application forms for a job should only ask for information relevant to assess the suitability of the applicant for the job. When personal data are needed, it is important to state that they are only for administrative purposes.
  • Job interviews and assessments should be limited to issues specific to the requirements and functions of the jobs.

Recruiting and Hiring Networks – Methods available in Singapore for Recruiting Staff

Some common recruiting networks are listed below, to which most employers resort to when they to do the recruitment and hiring of staff.

Employment agencies / Recruitment companies

Most medium-sized to large firms prefer to partner with headhunters to hire the right candidate. This method is easy, as less time and effort are needed. It is essential to check the cost and policy of each agency (usually the candidate's salary) before finalizing one. In addition to local recruitment companies, several international agencies such as Hudson, Hays, Robert Walters etc. have built a presence in Singapore and cater for a broad base of MNCs.

Newspaper advertisements

The Straits Times: a local publication with the highest circulation is most popular for classified advertisements among recruiters and job seekers alike. When positioning your advertisement, it is vital to consider the advertising rates and your target audience.

Internet websites

There are a number of popular job websites where you can post an ad for your job requirement for a small fee. Such sites are popular for regional positions and are primarily targeted towards the market in Singapore.

Job/Career Fairs

Job fairs in Singapore are becoming increasingly popular and attract more than 400,000 job seekers per year. This avenue gives employers access to a number of potential candidates and the opportunity to conduct interviews on-the-spot. For those seeking to hire talent for skill-based jobs, this is an appropriate option.

Campus Recruitment

Most of Singapore's universities and polytechnics allow employers to conduct campus interviews and recruitment negotiations if they are interested in hiring graduates / post-graduates.

Provision of Itemized Salary Slips

Employee Recruitment - Salary Slips
  • Since 1 April 2016, all employers are required to issue the new itemised payslips to workers protected by the Employment Act.
  • Itemized payslips must be given:
    • At least once a month along with the payment of the salary, Or
    • Not later than three days after payment of the salary.
    • In the event of termination or withdrawal, the payslip must be given along with the outstanding salary.
  • Employers may combine pay slips if payments are made more than once a month. The updated pay slip must include details of all payments that have been made since the last payslip.
  • With itemized payslips, there is no specified format, and they can be in soft or hardcopy. Itemised payslips must contain the following information:
    • Full name of employee
    • Full name of employer
    • Date of payment/s
    • Basic salary for that salary period
    • Net salary for the period in question
    • Allowances paid for the salary period – including fixed and ad-hoc allowances
    • Salary Period’s start and end date
    • Deduction (e.g. CPF Contribution) made for the salary period and if applicable,
  • Number of overtime working hours
  • Total amount of pay for overtime for the overtime period
  • Start and Finish date of that period of overtime
  • Any further payment in respect of that salary period (e.g. bonus).

Maintaining Payroll Records of Employees

If you are an employer in Singapore, it is your responsibility to keep a record of all payslips issued to your employees as under:

Employee Recruitment - Maintaining Payroll Records
  • At the place of employment, you must keep a check-roll pay slip, work board, or other forms of record. This record should show the following information:
    • Basic rate of pay and allowances.
    • Amount earned by each workman (including overtime).
    • Earnings and deductions of each workman.
  • The record has to be kept in soft copy or hard copy or in a handwritten form.
  • The record is to be maintained for
    • All current employees – latest two years.
    • For ex-employees – last two years. It is to be kept for one year after the employee leaves the job.

Summing Up

The details that have been mentioned in the article provide the general statutory requirements as well as the standard practices applied to the employee recruitment and hiring in Singapore as per the Singapore employment act. The hiring and recruitment process in Singapore are very well laid out, and all the laws relating to it must be adhered to by both employer and the employee.
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