CMS Expert Guide to employment termination law and legislation

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1. Dismissal of employees

The Employment Act (“EA”) is Singapore’s main labour law. The EA confers certain statutory protection(s) to local and foreign employees working under a contract of service in Singapore. Employees who are not covered under the EA are: (1) seafarers; (2) domestic workers; and (3) statutory board employees or civil servants in Singapore.

When dismissing an employee in Singapore, an employer needs to be mindful of:

  1. the terms of the employment agreement;
  2. the statutory protections conferred by the EA; and
  3. the common law in Singapore.

1.1 Reasons for dismissal

The employer must establish a real and serious reason to dismiss an employee.

It may be:

  • a personal reason, notably a fault (disciplinary ground), poor performance, disablement of the employee when the employer is unable to relocate / redeploy him to another position or make reasonable adjustments to his post; or
  • an economic reason, such as economic difficulties, technological changes or the absolute necessity of restructuring to safeguard competitiveness. The economic reason is analysed at the level of the group’s companies established in France operating in the same business sector. The redeployment obligation for economic dismissal is limited to jobs available “in French territory in the company or in other companies of the group, the organisation, activities, and operating location of which allows mobility of some or all of the personnel“;
  • the refusal to amend the employment contract following a collective performance agreement

An employer may not dismiss an employee without a legally valid cause.

Dismissal may be based on personal grounds (e.g. disciplinary dismissal, dismissal due to professional inadequacy, dismissal due to incapacity) or economic grounds (e.g. economic difficulties, technological changes), or subject to specific conditions, without stating a specific motive.

There are two broad regimes for dismissal:

  1. termination without cause; and
  2. summary dismissal for reason(s) attributable to the employee.

Where an employer wishes to terminate an employee’s contract without cause, he may do so by giving notice or by paying the employee his base salary in lieu of the notice period.

An employer can also, after due inquiry, summarily dismiss an employee for cause (e.g. as a result of employee misconduct) with immediate effect, i.e. without the stipulated notice period (referred to as “dismissal”). This results in immediate termination of the employment agreement. What amounts to misconduct is largely a question of fact, and generally the relevance and effect of the misconduct is judged with reference to its effect on the employer-employee relationship. The total accrued salary and any other sum due and payable to an employee who is dismissed must be paid either on the day of the dismissal or, if that is not possible, within three days, not including Sunday (or any such rest day as determined by the employer) or public holidays.

An employee who claims that he or she has been unfairly dismissed may file a wrongful dismissal claim (“dismissal claim”) with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management ("TADM") within one month of his or her last day of employment. For managers and executives, a dismissal claim can only be made if they have worked for their employer for at least 6 months. There is no minimum service time period required for non-managers and non-executives filing dismissal claims. Dismissal claims will be referred to mediation at the TADM before adjudication by the Employment Claims Tribunal.

If a female employee has worked for an employer for at least three continuous months, the employee has statutory maternity protection against retrenchment and dismissal without sufficient cause.

Employers are not statutorily required to provide reasons for dismissal, in particular for dismissals with notice. If however the employer is terminating an employee for poor performance and dismisses the employee without notice, the failure to give reasons would amount to wrongful dismissal.

1.2 Form

The stages in the individual dismissal procedure are as follows:

  • The employee is formally invited to a preliminary meeting.
  • At least five business days after the formal invitation, a preliminary meeting is held during which the employer explains the reasons for the contemplated dismissal and listens to the employee’s explanation.
  • The employee may be assisted by a third party (an employee of the company or an adviser of the employee mentioned on an official list prepared by the Prefect, depending on the existence of employee representative bodies in the company).
  • The dismissal letter must be sent to the employee at least two (or seven for a dismissal due to economic reasons) business days after the meeting (and within a month for a disciplinary dismissal).

The dismissal letter must be a registered letter whose receipt must be acknowledged by the employee, signed by either a legal representative of the firm or a person duly empowered by a legal representative, and who must belong to the company.

Applicable collective bargaining agreements can provide for a more favourable timeframe and / or procedure.

The letter must explicitly mention the grounds for dismissal. There are other mandatory provisions such as the possibility of choosing to benefit temporarily the supplementary health care scheme in force in the company, etc.

The grounds set out in the dismissal letter may be specified by the employer or at the employee’s request after the letter has been sent. If the employee does not make such a request, the letter’s lack of an adequate explanation will not in itself support a finding that the dismissal lacks real and serious cause, but will merely entitle the employee to compensation of no more than one month’s salary.

A special procedure (possible involvement of the works council, see below,
meeting and notification of the dismissal) applies in the case of a dismissal for economic reasons or when the dismissal concerns a ‘protected employee’ (e.g. members of the social and economic council, and trade union delegates notably).

A specific procedure prior to the dismissal exists for employees who have been recognised as physically incapable of performing their work by a labour doctor (redeployment obligation, possible involvement of the social and economic council, etc.).

For a dismissal based on a disciplinary reason, the employer should move rapidly as the procedure must begin within a few weeks of the employer becoming aware of the reason for dismissal and no more than two months after the discovery of the facts.

The employee must be notified of the dismissal in writing.

For contractual termination (i.e. termination without cause), notice of termination has to be given in writing. There is no special formality required for summary dismissal of an employee.

1.3 Notice period

The notice period is set by the applicable collective bargaining agreement and the Labour Code, and generally lasts between one and three months. The contract may be terminated without notice in the event of gross misconduct or intentional misconduct.

In the event of dismissal, the law provides that an employee is entitled to a notice of a duration which varies depending on his seniority as follows:

  • Length of service of less than six months: no notice period applicable;
  • Length of service between six months and less than two years: one month;
  • Length of service of at least two years: two months.

For any dismissal, the employer may choose whether the employee works during the notice period.

In either case, employee is entitled to receive the same salary, including any benefits.

The EA provides for a statutory minimum period of notice of between one day and four weeks, depending on the employee's length of service.

The EA provides that the length of notice in an employment contract should be the same for both the employer and the employee.

1.4 Involvement of works council

The social and economic council must be informed and consulted (with an advisory but formal vote of its members) when a mass redundancy is planned, or for the planned dismissal of a protected employee or physically disabled employee.

Works councils do not exist in Monaco. A staff representative (if established) must be properly informed prior to a collective redundancies.

No involvement.

1.5 Involvement of a union

When a company employs more than 50 workers, trade unions may be involved in a mass redundancy procedure to negotiate an ‘employment saving plan’.

No involvement for dismissals.

No involvement.

1.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

This is required when dismissing ‘protected employees’ and now the validation or homologation of the employment saving plan is also required for mass redundancy procedures.

Mandatory for employees with legal protection because of their private life or their mandate.

This protection applies to staff representatives, union delegates, pregnant women, employees taking maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave or family support leave, members of the Labour Court, harassment referents.

The relevant Labour Authority has to be informed of projected collective redundancies prior to their dismissal, and grant prior approval.

Not necessary.

1.7 Collective redundancies

Different procedures apply according to the company’s workforce and the number of employees concerned (the procedures are ‘lighter’ in small companies that dismiss fewer than ten employees).

The main principles are the same:

  • The employer has a duty to inform and consult the staff representative bodies;
  • All documentation related to the collective redundancy must be sent to the state authorities

In case of mass redundancies (more than ten employees in a company employing at least 50 employees):

  • The employer has a duty to inform and consult the social and economic council, involving at least two meetings (the social and economic council may be assisted by an accountant in some cases). Please note that, with the new law, the duration of the consultation has been regulated.
  • An ‘employment saving plan’ (a social plan providing real alternatives and social measures accompanying the redundancy, such as redeployment, redeployment leave, training, etc.) should be drafted. There are two options for drafting it: either through a collective agreement negotiated with trade unions or unilaterally by the employer (only in the absence of trade unions in the company or if no agreement is found and then only after consultation with the social and economic council).
  • This employment saving plan should then be sent to the state authorities that will either validate it (if agreed with trade unions) or homologate it (if unilaterally drafted by the employer). If the state authorities do not agree with the plan, the employer may present another draft after consulting the social and economic council.

The implementation of collective redundancies is mainly regulated by law and the National Collective Bargaining Agreement, which imposes some procedural steps prior to implementing any such decision.

Three main issues must be considered regarding the preparation and implementation of a collective social plan:

  • Drafting an information document containing all essential elements

regarding the decision to restructure, its motivation, its implementation and the measures taken by the employer to minimise any adverse impacts on employees;

  • Circulating the information to staff representatives, discussing it with them and collecting their comments and choices about measures taken to implement the restructuring (i.e., the measures adopted to minimise the number of dismissals); and
  • Implementing the restructuring plan, by obtaining the required authorisations as the case may be, notifying employees of their terminations and paying termination indemnities.

Employers who employ at least ten (10) employees are required to notify the Ministry of Manpower if five (5) or more employees are retrenched within any 6-month period within five (5) working days after the affected employees are notified of their retrenchment.

1.8 Summary dismissals

The term ‘summary dismissals’ has no real meaning in France. Dismissal without a notice period is only possible where there has been a serious breach, but even in that case, the form described above for dismissal procedure, including the preliminary meeting and registered letter, must still be applied. In case of dismissal without notice, the employee has no dismissal indemnity or notice period indemnity, because there is no notice period. Such dismissed employees are still entitled to unemployment insurance benefits, however. The dismissal procedure must begin within a few weeks of the employer becoming aware of the reason for dismissal and no more than two months after the discovering of the facts.

Dismissal without notice is only possible in case of gross misconduct. In such a case, the employee receives no dismissal indemnity or notice period indemnity. The employee is still entitled to unemployment insurance benefits.

Allowed. See Section 1.1. "Reasons for dismissal" for further elaboration.

1.9 Consequences if requirements are not met

The amount of damages depends on the actual loss suffered by the employee. For dismissals notified on or after 24 September 2017, the ordonnance n° 2017-1387 provides that the damages have a preset minimum and a maximum amount depending on the employee’s length of service. The ordonnance also stipulates specific lower minimum amounts for companies that usually employ fewer than 11 employees, but the maximum remains identical.

In some circumstances, the dismissal will be void, allowing the employee to request reinstatement. (These circumstances may include collective redundancies without a social plan, dismissal after an occupational injury or in discriminatory dismissals, or dismissal of a protected employee without state authority authorisation). In such a case, the compensation cannot be less than six months’ salary.

Should the employer dismiss an employee on personal or economic grounds without a valid cause, the employer would have to pay a dismissal indemnity.

In addition, the employee could claim damages for injuries suffered due to his / her wrongful dismissal.

An employee may lodge a dismissal claim seeking to be reinstated to his previous position and for any loss of income due to the wrongful dismissal, and/or for compensation. Employees have to engage in mandatory mediation with their employers at the TADM followed by adjudication at the Employment Claims Tribunal if a mediated resolution cannot be reached. The EA defines the term 'dismiss' to also include resignation of an employee if the employee can show, on the balance of probabilities, that he did not resign voluntarily but was forced to do so because of any conduct or omission on the part of the employer. Employers should be mindful that such employees can also lodge a dismissal claim.

1.10 Severance pay

Dismissal indemnity is payable unless the dismissal is due to gross misconduct or intentional misconduct. The amount payable is mainly set by the collective bargaining agreement but must not be less than 1 / 4 of the monthly salary per year of service for the first ten years of service, plus 1 / 3 of the monthly salary for each year of service after ten years. Indemnity is also payable for unused accrued holiday entitlement and for the notice period if the employer chooses to release the employee from performing it.

Dismissal indemnity is payable unless the dismissal is for gross misconduct. The amount payable is mainly set by the collective bargaining agreement, but must not be less than the French legal dismissal indemnity (since 27 September 2017: 25% of the monthly gross salary until ten years of seniority and one third of the monthly salary as of the tenth‘s year). A higher indemnity is payable in case of dismissal without a stated motive. Indemnity is also payable for unused accrued paid holidays and for the notice period if the employer chooses to release the employee from performing it.

Under the EA, employees who have served the company for at least two (2) years are eligible for retrenchment benefits. Those with less than two (2) years’ service could be granted an ex-gratia payment out of goodwill.

The EA does not dictate the nature or amount of severance pay and leaves it to the mutual agreement between the employee and the employer. In the absence of a contractual agreement, the prevailing norm is to pay between two weeks’ to one month’s salary per year of service, depending on the company’s financial position and industry.

1.11 Non-competition clauses

A non-competition clause is only valid if provided in the work contract, and if:

  • The employer demonstrates that this clause is necessary to safeguard his interests and proportionate (e.g. the lower is the position the less the clause is justified);
  • Its scope is limited to a reasonable area, a reasonable period of time, and precise activities; and
  • The employee receives a monthly indemnity during the term of the clause (the indemnity amount is set by the work contract or collective bargaining agreement, but is generally between 20% and 50% of the employee’s monthly salary).

This clause can be waived by the employer in the letter of dismissal or according to the provision of the applicable collective bargaining agreement and / or employment contract.

The examination of the terms of the applicable collective bargaining agreement is key on this matter.

Non-competition clauses are enforceable in Monaco provided they are appropriately restricted.

A non-competition clause must comply with five cumulative conditions:

  • it must be essential to protect the employer’s legitimate interests;
  • it must be limited to a specific time period;
  • it must be limited to a geographical area;
  • it must take the characteristics of the employee’s job into account; and
  • most importantly, it must provide for a financial counterpart.

Independent consideration is required for a non-competition clause.

Restrictive covenants (including non-competition clauses) are not valid and will be void unless:

  1. they are deemed by the Singapore Courts to be reasonable between the parties and in the interests of the public;
  2. they seek to protect legitimate proprietary interests; and
  3. are not more extensive than is reasonably necessary to protect such interests.

The burden of proof is on the employer to show that the covenant is reasonable between the parties, whilst the employee bears the burden of proof to show that the covenant is against the public’s interests.

1.12 Miscellaneous

Specific and restrictive rules and procedures apply in the case of pregnant women, women on and returning from maternity leave, young fathers, and employees recovering after a work-related accident or suffering from a work-related illness. Women on maternity leave cannot be dismissed during this period.

Since 2008, a new means of termination has been introduced, namely “by mutual agreement”. This new possibility is called ‘rupture conventionnelle’ (mutual termination of the employment contract). The termination is agreed by both employer and employee and there is no cause or reason to demonstrate.

The employee is entitled to unemployment insurance benefits and dismissal indemnity provided by law or the applicable collective bargaining agreement (or more if agreed).

A strict procedure including preliminary meetings and consideration periods should be followed (both parties have the benefit of 15 calendar days to retract, from the date on which the form is signed); a specific form must be filled in and signed by both parties.

The specific form must be sent to the state authorities for agreement. The state authorities have a 15-open day period to review the form. Within these 15 days, the state authorities can agree to the termination, disagree or stay silent (silence amounts to agreement). However, the state authorities must expressly agree for protected employees. Otherwise the termination is void.

Since September 2017 it has been possible for the employer to negotiate a collective agreement through a ‘rupture conventionnelle collective’ (mass mutual termination of the employment contract) with trade unions. Such an agreement can only implement voluntary departures and thus excludes any dismissals designed to eliminate jobs. This new method of terminating contracts is entirely excluded from the rules governing economic dismissals. The labour administration is informed as soon as negotiations to conclude such an agreement start and reviews the agreement’s contents before validating it.

Not applicable.

The Tripartite Guidelines on Wrongful Dismissal were published on 1 April 2019 to illustrate what is considered wrongful dismissal. Employers are reminded to be mindful of the examples in these guidelines as these are matters that TADM mediators and Employment Claims Tribunal adjudicators are likely to take into account when mediating and/or adjudicating wrongful dismissal claims.

For the latest updates and developments on wrongful dismissal claims, please contact CMS Holborn Asia’s employment law team.

2. Dismissal of managing directors

There is no distinction between the duties and liabilities of a “director” and a “managing director” save as otherwise provided for in the constitution of the company.

The table below focuses on the removal of a managing director from his or her office as director. This is separate and different from the termination of a director’s contract of employment and/or other related employment issues, which are covered in Section 1 “Dismissal of employees” as that relates to the director’s role as an employee of the company.

2.1 Reasons for dismissal

The company may generally revoke the appointment of the managing director without cause, unless stated otherwise in the by-laws of the company or the resolution of appointment. However, a fair reason is legally required in certain forms of companies (e. g. the civil form or commercial forms such as certain limited companies (‘SA’) or limited liability companies (‘SARL’)).

A company may generally revoke the appointment of the managing director without cause, unless stated otherwise in the by-laws of the company or the resolution of appointment. This is particularly the case for limited companies (‘SA‘). However, a just cause is legally required in limited liability companies (‘SARL’) when revoking a managing director who is also a shareholder of the company. In any event, revocation must follow mandatory steps to be declared valid.

It is not a strict legal requirement for reasons to be provided when a director is being removed. This will ultimately be subject to the constitution of the company in question.

2.2 Form

A resolution taken by the shareholders or board of directors, depending on the form of the company and the internal organisation of the management. The managing director must be notified in writing of the revocation, and the change of managing director must be published in a public Corporate Register.

A resolution is taken by the shareholders and / or board of directors, depending on the form of the company and the internal organisation of the management. The managing director must be given the opportunity to explain himself or herself and the revocation must not be made vexatiously.

Public Company

  • A public company may, by ordinary resolution (i. e. a vote by a simple majority at a general meeting), remove a director before the expiration of his period of office, notwithstanding anything in its constitution or in any agreement between the public company and the director.
  • However, if the director was appointed to represent the interests of any particular class of shareholders or debenture holders, the resolution to remove him will be ineffective until a replacement director is appointed.
  • Special notice must be given of a resolution to remove a director or to appoint a replacement director at the meeting at which the incumbent director is removed. The company is required to send a copy of the notice to the director concerned and at the meeting, the director is entitled to be heard. The director is also entitled to make written representations (of a reasonable length) and to request that a copy of those representations be sent to every member of the company. The company is entitled to apply to the Singapore Court for the director to be denied the right to send out representations or to have his or her representations read at the meeting.
  • Public listed companies in Singapore are subject to additional obligations under the law, including the obligation to make an immediate announcement to the Singapore Exchange (“SGX”) upon the cessation of the director’s services.

Private Company

  • A director must be removed in accordance with the company’s constitution. Where the constitution is silent on the removal of a director, it may be amended in accordance with the required procedure on the removal of directors. Subject to any provision to the contrary in the constitution, a private company may remove a director by ordinary resolution before the expiration of his or her term, notwithstanding anything in any agreement between the company and the director.
  • However, if the company also wishes to remove the director as an employee of the company, this must be in accordance with the termination provisions of his or her employment contract with the company.
  • The removal of a director will be deemed invalid unless at least one director who is ordinarily resident in Singapore (who may be the sole director) remains on the board.
  • The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore (ACRA) should be notified that a director has ceased to hold office within 14 days of said action having taken place.

2.3 Notice period

There is no notice period, except where one is provided by the by-laws of the company or in the resolution of appointment of the managing director.

No notice period, except where one is provided by the by-laws of the company or in the resolution of appointment of the managing director.

No statutory minimum notice period for the removal of directors. Dependent on terms of resolution and can be immediate.

The termination of the director’s employment contract will be in accordance with what is stipulated in the director’s employment contract.

The EA provides that the length of notice in an employment contract should be the same for both the employer and the employee.

2.4 Involvement of works council

No.

No involvement.

No involvement.

2.5 Involvement of a union

Not applicable.

No involvement.

No involvement.

2.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

No.

For limited liability companies (‘SARL’), appointment of a new director is subject to government approval. For all companies, the change of director must be registered in the Monaco Companies Register.

Not necessary.

2.7 Collective redundancies

Not applicable.

Not applicable.

Not applicable.

2.8 Summary dismissals

Not applicable.

Not applicable.

No special rules apply.

2.9 Consequences if requirements are not met

Damages may mainly be claimed:

  • for lack of fair reason in companies where such a reason is legally required to revoke a representative; or
  • if the revocation is notified under hurtful circumstances (e.g. is very sudden and unexpected, or is publicly announced before the director is informed), or if the managing director has not been granted a reasonable opportunity to make his point before the decision to revoke him is made (absence of due process).

Damages may be claimed, mainly:

  • for the lack of a just cause, in the event that such reason is legally required to revoke a legal representative; or
  • if the revocation is notified under hurtful circumstances (e.g. is very sudden and unexpected, or is publicly announced before the director is informed), or if the managing director has not been granted a reasonable opportunity to make his / her point before the board’s / shareholders’ decision to revoke him / her (absence of due process). However, the managing director cannot be reinstated.

The removal of the director is invalid and / or ineffective.

In the case of public companies, non-compliance with the announcement obligations referred to above could result in a reprimand and / or sanctions from SGX.

Even if the requirements above are met, a director may sue for damages and compensation for breach of his or her contract of service (i. e. his or her employment agreement with the company) if the provisions for termination as set out in the same are not complied with.

2.10 Severance pay

There is no mandatory severance pay for the capacity as director, unless stated otherwise in the by-laws of the company or in the resolution of appointment of the managing director.

Not applicable.

Any severance pay will be made in accordance with what is provided for in the director’s employment contract. See section 1.10 “Severance pay” for more details.

2.11 Non-competition clauses

The terms of any non-competition clause must be agreed between the parties. If the scope of the clause is too wide (according to its geographic area, its length, or the activities it concerns), its validity may be challenged.

Non competition clauses are only valid insofar as they specify a restricted application in time and space. They also have to include financial compensation in order to compensate the director for the loss of revenue they cause him or her. If the clause does not include those elements, it is null and void. In that case, the director may still be held liable for unfair competition towards the company if it is demonstrated that the director resorted to fraudulent practices intended to disturb the company’s activity such as denigrating it or employing key members of its staff.

Restrictive covenants (including a non-competition clause) are not valid and will be void unless:

  1. they are deemed by the Singapore Courts to be reasonable between the parties and in the interests of the public;
  2. they seek to protect legitimate proprietary interests; and
  3. are not more extensive than is reasonably necessary to protect such interests.

The burden of proof is on the employer to show that the covenant is reasonable between the parties, whilst the employee bears the burden of proof to show that the covenant is against the public’s interests.

2.12 Miscellaneous

The director may also be an employee. In this case, a proper dismissal process will have to be implemented in addition to the revocation process and corresponding dismissal indemnities paid.

Not applicable.

Not applicable.