HR Staff Claims She Was Wrongfully Dismissed, Wants To Raise Awareness
UPDATE (20 Nov): The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has issued a statement about the case, refuting certain claims presented in this article.
According to the statement, Ms Wong was not “asked” to settle for the lower sum of $1,125. She had reportedly agreed to the sum despite being briefed that she will no longer be able to bring the case to the Employment Claims Tribunal.
MOM also shared that Ms Wong was not asked to write a resignation letter and that it was, in fact, her who had requested for the termination to be converted into a resignation.
You can read the full statement here.
Losing a job is never a pleasant experience, especially when you feel that you were terminated without proper reason.
A 47-year-old human resource (HR) assistant in Singapore experienced just that.
She was purportedly terminated without just cause or reason. To add salt to the wound, she alleged that a non-citizen – who was the sibling of a senior HR executive at the company – was hired in her place the very next day.
Taking her case to the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM), she had asked for $13,500 compensation, but was eventually asked to settle for $1,125.
Even so, she wanted to spread awareness regarding her story in hopes of preventing similar incidents from happening to others.
HR staff allegedly dismissed without proper cause
Speaking to MS News, Jenny Wong, 47, who is currently still unemployed, shared how she felt she was wrongfully dismissed by her ex-employer in May during ‘Circuit Breaker’.
She had been working as a HR assistant-cum-admin at a cleaning services company for 2 years. Here’s a summarised version of events in chronological order:
- Went on leave on 15 and 18 May after getting approval from senior HR executive
- Returned on 19 May and was handed a termination letter without due reason stated
- Feels wrongfully dismissed
- Finally reported case to TADM in early Aug after mulling over it for 3 months
A TADM mediation then commenced, and an email was sent to her ex-employer on 17 Aug.
Director said her salary had been paid
The director of the company had responded, citing a number of reasons that Ms Wong’s termination was not counted as a wrongful dismissal, such as her salary had been paid within 7 days of her last day at work.
In the email seen by MS News, the director had instructed that Ms Wong could stay in the office and do nothing for the next 1 month, or she could leave immediately and be paid 1 month’s salary in lieu.
She was given up to noon that day to make a decision. Shocked, she chose to leave right away.
Position allegedly filled by non-citizen the next day
However, Ms Wong said she found out from ex-colleagues that she was replaced by a non-citizen the very next day on 20 May.
Moreover, her replacement was purportedly the biological sister of the senior HR executive, who wasn’t a Singapore citizen as well.
Dismayed, she said,
I worked hard for the company, helped them in times of crisis for over a year by taking on another person’s workload which caused me to suffer a serious health issue.
But the employer chose to terminate me unfairly in order for the hiring person to hire her own sister to take over my position the following day after my termination.
Allegedly asked to write resignation letter during mediation
Ms Wong told MS News that the mediator had allegedly asked her to write a resignation letter – to be dated 20 May – during a face-to-face mediation on 28 Sep.
20 May marks the day after the 47-year-old was notified of her termination.
She shared that the reason given was to ensure that it wouldn’t harm her hiring prospects if a termination was on her employment record, especially given her age.
At the mediator’s advice, Ms Wong decided to write a resignation letter 3 months after she was terminated. It was then signed and acknowledged by the director.
HR staff compensated $1,125 after being dismissed
Due to the circumstances surrounding her termination, Ms Wong demanded the company to compensate for her sudden loss of income.
She asked for compensation worth of 6 months’ salary, which amounted to $13,500.
The sum was further justified by mental stress and medical expenses incurred for a health condition she allegedly suffers from due to job-related stress.
Ms Wong claimed that initially the director was only willing to pay $800.
Eventually, both parties settled on the amount of $1,125 and she was paid in early October.
To ascertain more details and corroborate Ms Wong’s side of the story, MS News has reached out to 4 parties:
- The TADM mediator in question
- TADM corporate communications
- MOM corporate communications
- Director of the cleaning services company
Here’s an overview of the latest statuses:
- No response from TADM mediator and company director via email and phone calls
- MOM said they are aware of the case but it falls mainly under TADM’s purview
- TADM corporate communications said they are currently looking into this case and will respond soon.
MS News will update this story when there are further developments.
We hope Ms Wong will recover from this ordeal
Wrongful dismissal is a serious issue and often causes deep distress to the person terminated.
Not only is there a sudden loss of income, there is no knowing when the worker will be able to find another job in this economic climate.
Even though Ms Wong was only compensated a fraction of what she sought after, we hope that she will be able to recover from the mental distress and secure employment soon.
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Featured image adapted from TADM.