Is Firing Employees With No Cause In Singapore Business Ethical?

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Is Firing Employees With No Cause In Singapore Business Ethical?

All of us came across news about Twitter layoffs and several critics made statements on the billionaire's takeover of Twitter and its debacle being followed by wrongful dismissal of employees.

Forget about notice period or constructive dismissal in this case.

Laid off employees expressed their termination of employment and they opted to tweet how they were upended jobless.

It was a blatant lack of empathy in an inconsiderable way CEO Elon Musk proceeded dismissal with notice ending contracts of service of about 3,700 employees via email - the raising concern is that they got remotely logged out of their work laptops while removed daily access from organization.

Do you think contract of service can be ended without dismissal for details? If you are a business owner, how would you set grounds for dismissal without causing employee misconduct? 

The consequences of wrongful dismissal can lead to serious lawsuits that employees may voice against your act as an employer causing your company into disrepute or unwanted legal actions.

Latest News About Twitter: Twitter CEO Elon Musk emailed for the first time to his employees soon after the layoffs stating he has put an end to Twitter's "work from home forever" policy. Adding that the reduction of global workforce is required for the company's success moving forward. Again, via Twitter email if not impacted and via personal email if employment is impacted. Below is a leaked email on new Twitter's official communication.

From the perspectives of both employers and employees, let's explore in depth about the termination clauses you have to practice in the work environment whatever your industry is in Singapore.

Employment Termination Management For Businesses

When it comes to employment termination, heed ahead and familiarize yourself with these essential employment termination related words.

1) Notice Period

Notice period is the minimum amount of time given to employees before termination of employment. It should be at least one week prior to the date of termination. This gives employees enough time to prepare for the termination of employment.

2) Constructive Dismissal

Constructive dismissal occurs when an employee resigns voluntarily because of intolerable working conditions or conditions of employment. The employee must give the employer sufficient notice to allow it to remedy the situation. However, the employer cannot force the employee to resign unless there is a valid reason for doing so.

3) Wrongful Dismissal

Wrongful dismissal is when an employer dismisses an employee without any fair reason or cause. An employer can terminate an employee’s employment even if the employee does nothing wrong.

4) Voluntary/Involuntary Resignation

A voluntary resignation occurs when an employee decides to leave his/her job for reasons other than dismissal. Such reasons include retirement, pregnancy, marriage, divorce, death, etc. Involuntary resignation, on the other hand, is when an employer or a company initiates a termination depending on various reasons with cause or during a layoff.

5) Discharge

Discharge means terminating an employee’s services immediately. A discharge will occur if an employee commits gross misconduct such as theft, fraud, embezzlement, sexual harassment, etc.

6) Suspension Without Pay

Suspension without pay refers to the temporary suspension of an employee’s wages during disciplinary proceedings.

7) Reduction-in-Force (RIF)

Reduction-in-force (RIF) is the process by which an employer reduces its workforce through involuntary separation of workers. RIF is usually triggered by economic downturns or restructuring activities.

8) Layoff

Layoffs occur when an employer terminates all or part of its workforce. Layoffs are often used to reduce costs or eliminate positions. Twitter makes a great example of this case.

Termination With Notice

One of the common mandatory practices involved for termination of employment with notice is a written termination letter, also known as notice of termination, must be either done by you or your employee. If there is no termination letter nor notice in writing, and you are expected to be terminated, ask for one or else you are still considered as an employee to the company.

Common Tip For Employers: Keep in mind that your employee sign the termination letter as an acknowledgement of receipt. By doing so, this eliminates misunderstandings or disputes and not having adverse effects upon employment relationship.

As an employee, when you resign, you must:

Serve the notice period if your employment contract specifies one or pay compensation instead.

By mutual agreement between you and your employer, notice may be waived. The notice period's duration must be the same agreed upon both the employee and the employer and in accordance with the employment contract.

Depending on employee's length of service, the notice period will differ, for example, employee with length of service between 2 to 5 years may require 2 weeks of notice period while employee with longer length of service above 5 years requires 1 month of notice period.

Termination Without Notice

You must pay salary in place of notice if you quit without giving notice. Instances like breaching the terms of the contract, failing to make payment of salaries, and being absent without justification may result in termination without notice.

Termination of contract without notice at any time may likely happen without waiting for the notice period to expire, by either you or your employer.

For example, as an employer, you can accomplish by giving the other party notice pay when dismissing an employee without notice (compensation in place of notice). The amount below is what you would have made during the required notice period in salary.

Workers' Compensation For Contract Termination

You might be required by your contract to pay a monetary penalty (in addition to notice pay) if you end the agreement before a predetermined day of employment ends. These conditions are based on the service contract and are not protected by the Employment Act.

So, the reality is termination without notice can probably happen to you and you may need to understand Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices to ensure that you abide by the guidelines on all the relevant practices. Being fair is always an ethical asset for anyone, isn't it?

Termination Due To Employee Misconduct Can Cause Problems

If you terminate an employee due to misconduct, you should provide him/her with a written warning about his/her conduct. This gives the employee an opportunity to improve his/her behavior. You should also inform the employee of the consequences of future misconduct.

In some cases, you may be able to dismiss an employee without providing a written warning. However, you should consider whether the employee has been given sufficient opportunities to correct his/her behavior.

In case of dismissal due to misconduct, you must give the employee a written statement of reasons for the decision.

Employer Guide: Conduct A Formal Inquiry Before Any Disciplinary Action

Before taking any disciplinary action against an individual for misconduct, the employer must first talk to the person who was allegedly involved in the misconduct and conduct a proper inquiry into the incident.

Although there is no set process for an investigation, here are some broad guidelines:

1) The employer must inform the worker of the alleged wrongdoing.

2) The worker should be given the chance to argue their position.

3) The individual hearing the question shouldn't be in a circumstance that could imply bias.

According to the Employment Act, the employer has the right to suspend the employee from work while an investigation is underway. However, this suspension cannot be longer than one week without the Commissioner for Labour's agreement.In addition, you must pay your employee at least half of their salary during suspension.

If you need more than seven days to complete the inquiry and resolve the situation, ask the Ministry of Manpower's Commissioner for Labour's approval at least 3 working days prior before the end of the suspension week for an extended inquiry.


Here's a recap on what you must do as a fair employer when dismissal is of big concern:

1) Unless misconduct is the grounds for termination, dismissal shall be given notice or salary in place of notice.

2) If misconduct is the cause of the dismissal, establish the grounds for dismissal and carry out a proper inquiry before you make the final decision.

3) Practice responsible retrenchment if redundancy is the cause of the dismissal.

4) Pay your impacted employees on the last day of their job or three days after they were terminated.

Read also: New Requirements for Retrenchment Notifications – What Must Employers Do When Laying Off Workers?

Read also: Work From Home 2021 - Outdated Workplace Attitudes that SME Owners Need To Change

Read also: Remote Working: Employers And Employees' Disagreement Over Working From Home

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UPDATED AS OF 09 Dec 2023
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