Medisave Deductions, Insurance, Support For DisputesThis comes after a proposal by the Tripartite Workgroup (TWG) submitted earlier in February, which called on the Government to boost freelancers’ Medisave savings, provide them insurance to protect them against loss of income from workplace injuries, create a voluntary standard for written contracts, and give them greater support for matters like pay disputes. These were among seven ideas proposed by the TWG, which did a nine-month study of the challenges faced by freelancers in Singapore.
In response, Minster Teo said in a letter that she “has accepted the recommendations”, and her intention to “provide a fuller response during the Committee of Supply parliamentary debates”. On Monday, she announced that some of the new benefits include being able to deduct a share of their income for Medisave, getting access to voluntary mediation for payment disputes, and an insurance scheme that stems income loss from prolonged sick leave.
We will therefore take a practical approach of making the insurance product available for (freelancers) to purchase for their own protection.Other insurance firms are also welcome to offer a similar scheme. Lastly, the tripartite partners (the Government, unions and employers) also launched “a tripartite standard on contracting with self-employed persons”. This looks to set a benchmark that freelancers should encourage service buyers to adopt. Under the standard, both sides “need to discuss and agree clearly […] on areas such as the nature of services, which includes duration and location of service, and payment schedules”. All of this will then be laid out in writing. Minister Teo called this a “good start”, and said that “it will shape contracting norms and entrench best practices over time”.
More To Be Done For The Growing Number Of FreelancersWhile it’s great news that self-employed individuals are getting more support from the Government, there actually has been a group that has been quietly supporting freelancers in Singapore. Called the U FSE Unit (Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit), it was set up by the Labour Movement to serve the rapidly growing group; acting as an intermediary, and helping freelancers secure government assistance like Workfare – which helps them fund up to 95% of course fees! While freelancers cannot be union members or unionised per se, the U FSE Unit aims to help them benefit from the programmes under the Labour Movement’s umbrella using a “pay by use” (vs. the typical “pay by month” model for employees) basis. The Unit has also been a strong advocate for workplace insurance, freelancers’ income security, and the benchmarking of good practices for service buyers. “We hope that the Labour Movement could give freelancers a voice,” shared Mr Ang Hin Kee, Director of the U FSE Unit in an article we published in 2016.
We want these groups of workers to have ownership. We want them to champion their cause, internalise the issues, face their problems and stand behind their solutions.During the announcement yesterday, it was also mentioned that the Unit is now working with groups (such as self-employed sports coaches) to develop a “training and accreditation scheme”. “Associations can strengthen support to help their members make their […] careers more sustainable,” said Minister Teo.