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Singapore – Court fines recruiter, employers punished

25 April 2013

A 33-year-old man from Singapore was this week fined thousands of dollars for operating an employment agency without a valid licence from the Commissioner of Employment Agencies.

Regulations in the country are tight regarding the operation of staffing companies and legislation punishes offenders with hefty fines or prison sentences.

The man, Lee Jen Hao, was found guilty of breaching the law. He was ordered to pay USD 16,000 (SGD 20,000). If he defaults, he will be sent to prison for six weeks, the judges ruled. The man used a pseudonym to approach Chinese nationals, offering them jobs in the entertainment industry. He committed the offences between April and May last year, charging the migrant workers fees of up to USD 3,000 (SGD 4,000).  He also picked the Chinese workers up from the airport and collected their work passes.

Two employers who engaged with Lee were given a warning by the Ministry of Manpower. They were also given a composition fine which usually consists of USD 4,000 (SGD 5,000). Last month, a Singapore court charged an employer for engaging with an unlicensed agent. This was the first time an employer was prosecuted successfully since amendments to the employment agencies act came into force in April 2011.

The revised Employment Agencies Act introduced harsher penalties for offenders operating in the staffing industry. Any person now running an unlicensed employment agency can be fined up to SGD 80,000 (USD 64,000) and/or be sentenced to 24 months in prison. For subsequent convictions, fines can rise to SGD 160,000 (USD 128,000) and can include a 48 months’ jail sentence.  Employment agencies can also have their licenses revoked if they are implicated in such cases and will be barred from operating a staffing firm in the future.

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