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Better support for gig workers to be looked into, says DPM Heng, Singapore News & Top Stories

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The pandemic has drawn attention to the substantial number of self-employed people in Singapore, and the authorities will continue to look into how they can be better supported, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

This diverse group may include those taking on gig jobs like food delivery temporarily, and those who take on such jobs on a part-time basis, Mr Heng noted. There are also those who do not file taxes or have Central Provident Fund contributions – which is why the Government does not have comprehensive data on this group of workers, he told participants at a post-Budget forum broadcast on Channel 8.

“It was only after the pandemic that we realised that there were so many self-employed workers… so we will further investigate how we can assist the self-employed, Mr Heng said in Mandarin.

He addressed questions from participants on the Budget, focusing on themes such as the impact of the pandemic on individuals and businesses, and support measures for vulnerable groups.

Asked by host Tung Soo Hua about support for older workers, who may face discrimination and barriers when it comes to employment, Mr Heng said businesses also play an important role, besides policy measures such as raising the retirement and re-employment age. Workers, on their part, also need to continually update their skills.

“I hope we can study how to further enhance our efforts in helping older workers with employment and transitioning to different jobs,” he told the participants, who included younger and older workers as well as business owners.

Madam Annie Chan, the second generation owner of Mummy Yummy – a food business that also distributes free food to vulnerable groups – noted that while families in rental flats were quite well provided for during the pandemic, some middle-income families have been hit hard. However, they may not qualify for assistance as they do not meet the criteria, she said.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, agreed that the pandemic has affected Singaporeans across income brackets, including those in the middle-income group.

In Budget 2021, as well as last year’s Budget, the Government supported middle-income households with measures that help Singaporeans to retain their jobs as far as possible.

“If we can help to protect workers’ rice bowls, then it can also help safeguard their livelihoods and support their families,” said Mr Heng.

Charity and volunteering efforts are also important in helping the vulnerable, he said, urging more Singaporeans to contribute, given that the country’s needs in this area will continue to grow.

On the planned goods and services tax (GST) hike between next year and 2025, Mr Heng said that it is necessary to fund Singapore’s rising expenditure needs.

But a $6 billion Assurance Package that has been set aside will effectively delay the impact of the GST increase for lower-income Singaporeans for 10 years, while this impact will also be delayed for the majority of Singaporean households for at least five years.

He also noted that the introduction of a new framework for borrowing to finance major infrastructure projects is an equitable one, given that it helps to spread the costs of these projects over several generations.

If the economy rebounds, Mr Heng hopes that schemes like the SGUnited Traineeships Programme, which allows fresh graduates to go through an attachment at a company while receiving an allowance, will no longer have to be extended. “Ideally, companies will be able to hire graduates straight out of school,” he said.

But if the Covid-19 situation takes a turn for the worse, or if the global economy does not recover soon, more Budgets could be rolled out to help Singaporeans, Mr Heng added.




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Postal workers union in Canada announces gig worker unionization effort

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February 26, 2021

On Thursday, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers announced a “Gig Workers United” union campaign for Toronto delivery workers whose work is controlled by apps.

“The way it is just can’t continue — if the gig economy is going to work for our society than it can’t be based on squeezing delivery workers and restaurants for profit, and dodging our labor standards,” courier spokesperson Narada Kiondo said.

Its effort is rooted in an effort where delivery independent contractors for Foodora voted to unionize, although the company left Canada last year.

“The couriers have shown that traditional union organizing is possible in this space. But they’ve gone farther than that, with community-organizing tactics and collective mutual aid,” CUPW National President Jan Simpson said. “They’ve formed a worker-led organization that we’re proud to support because their fresh energy and ideas are what it takes to improve working conditions and reject Silicon Valley’s model of exploitation.”

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Government has no plans to create new employment status for gig workers

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The Government has “no plans” to introduce a new category of employment for workers in the gig economy, which would extend to them the same rights as those of staff in more secure forms of employment, Minister of State for Trade Promotion Robert Troy has said.

Mr Troy was speaking in the Seanad on Friday, days after a landmark ruling against Uber by the UK supreme court, which said the ride hailing app’s employees were workers rather than being self-employed.

Fianna Fáil senator Mary Fitzpatrick said Deliveroo riders and those working for similar delivery companies had provided a “vital and essential service” to the public during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Because they are in this no-man’s-land, they have no employment rights, no insurance cover if they are robbed, mugged, or in any way injured during the time they are carrying out their work,” she said.

Fine Gael senator Mary Seery Kearney said the UK ruling would lead to a “hybrid” category of employment “that marries the gig economy type flexible model of self-employed with basic employment rights”, adding: “We don’t have that category here.”

Code

In response, Mr Troy said the Department of Social Protection was “revising and updating” the code of practice for determining the employment and self-employment status of individuals to reflect new working models.

“Ireland has a robust suite of employment rights that protects all employees equally,” he said. “All employers carry the same obligation when it comes to the compliance with employment rights.

“Ireland has always resisted the creation of sub-categories of employment as this would inevitably lead to a race to the bottom where hard won employment rights are gradually eroded. Therefore, the Government has no plan to create a third category of employment.

“It’s not clear under what criteria a person would be deemed to fall into this third category of employment where they would be neither an employee or self-employed.

“We would essentially be creating a lesser category of employee who we acknowledge is not self-employed, but to whom we would not afford the full suite of employment rights to which they are currently entitled.”

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Employment Law Coffee Break | Neurodiversity; gig economy; roadmap out of lockdown 3 and our pensions spotlight for February

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Welcome to our Employment Law Coffee Break in which we highlight the latest developments and issues impacting UK employers

Neurodiversity: Creating inclusivity in your workplace

This week Danielle Kingdon, employment partner, speaks with Nancy Doyle, CEO of Genius Within to provide a practical introduction to neurodiversity and the considerations for employers seeking to attract, retain and support neurodiverse talent.  For many employers their understanding of neurodiversity is just developing and this podcast provides a timely and practical outline.

What did the Supreme Court say in the Uber case?

The Supreme Court has handed down its decision in the long running “Uber” case. The decision inevitably has attracted much media attention with there being wider ranging implications for businesses operating on a platform model.  The decision highlights the need for organisations to understand the employment status of those working for them, together with workplace tax implications. This April sees reforms to IR35 rules in the private sector; given that the test of whether IR35 applies is an employment status test, this decision that the drivers were workers for employment purposes could also have implications for any IR35 status and will be relevant to any determinations carried out in relation to this. We look here at the Supreme Court’s decision and set out here our six practical takeaways for businesses.

If you would like any further assistance in this area and the implications of the new IR35 rules on your contingent workforce, please do contact our specialist workforce solutions team. Kevin Barrow will be discussing the traps in the regime as part of our Eating Compliance for Breakfast series of webinars; please register here.

Roadmap out of lockdown 3: Considerations for employers

The Prime Minister set out on 22 February a four step roadmap to “cautiously” ease lockdown restrictions in England. However, as previously, nothing is set in stone with each step to be assessed against specifc tests – centred on the vaccination programme, pressure on the NHS and any new variants of concern – to keep infection rates under control before restrictions are eased.  Separate measures to ease lockdown are being introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We now wait for further guidance but please read here for the immediate considerations for employers. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also confirmed that companies who are required to do so should report their gender pay gap by the 4 April 2021 but it will not bring enforcement proceedings until 4 October 2021.

We are hosting a webinar on 3 March which looks at vaccination considerations for employers. Please register here.

Pensions spotlight for February: Climate risk governance and reporting

The Department for Work and Pensions is consulting on draft regulations and statutory guidance which will introduce climate risk governance and reporting duties for the trustees of trust-based (occupational) pension schemes from October 2021. The duties will apply to larger schemes first, but all schemes are being urged to consider what action they can take.

Climate change risk is also key for contract-based (for example, group personal) pension schemes. A number of providers have recently announced ‘net zero’ targets and the Financial Conduct Authority has confirmed that it plans to consult on climate-related disclosure requirements in the first half of 2021, with a view to rules coming into force from 2022.

The main aim of these changes is to support good governance of, and appropriate action in response to, climate change risk.  The disclosure/reporting changes also mean that members (and anyone else who is interested, including action groups) will have access to more information about the way a pension scheme is considering and responding to climate change risk.

Employers might like to continue to talk to their personal pension scheme provider about the action it is taking. For the risk and other reasons we discuss at the end of this Insight, you might also like to discuss the new provisions for trust-based schemes with the trustees of any scheme that you sponsor.

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