CMS Expert Guide to employment termination law and legislation

Global comparison

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

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.

The reasons for regular termination as set out in the Labour Act are as follows:

  • if the need for work ceases to exist for economic, technical or organisational reasons (‘notice due to business reasons’); or
  • the employee is incapable of fulfilling his employment-related duties due to certain personal characteristics or qualifications (‘notice due to personal reasons’); or
  • the employee intentionally breaches a contractual obligation (‘notice due to misconduct’); or
  • if the employee did not satisfy the employer’s requirements during the probationary period.

Generally, employers in Austria are not required to justify ordinary dismissals (Kündigungen). Nevertheless, they must observe prescribed notice periods and termination dates.

If an establishment employs five or more employees, however, these employees enjoy “General Protection against Dismissals”: an employee may challenge a dismissal if it has adverse effects on the individual’s personal life. In these cases, the employer must justify the dismissal for reasons related to employee capabilities, conduct or operational requirements if challenged by the employee.

Certain “vulnerable” employees enjoy additional “Special Protection against Dismissal” and may only be dismissed for one of several specific reasons, often only with the prior consent of competent authorities. These include women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth, parents on parental leave, works council members and employees formally classified as disabled persons.

Discriminatory dismissals or dismissals due to “illegal reasons” can also be challenged by employees.

1.2 Form

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.

Written form, including reasons for termination. Decision is to be delivered to the employee.

Unless otherwise stipulated in a collective agreement or employment contract, dismissals do not require any particular form. However, giving notice in writing is recommended. If “Special Protection against Dismissal” applies, rules may differ.

1.3 Notice period

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.

Regular termination: notice period ranges from two weeks to three months, dependent on the employee’s length of service with the same employer.

The three-month period is extended by an additional two weeks / one month for 50 / 55-year-old employees who have 20 or more years’ continuous service with the same employer.

Extraordinary termination (summary dismissal): no notice period. Termination during probationary period: notice period of at least seven days.

Termination by employee: notice period cannot be longer than one month if the employee has a good reason.

If the employment is terminated because the employee  breaches his contractual obligations, notice periods are halved.

Although Austrian law does provide statutory minimum notice periods and dates, employers are free to designate their own notice regimes based on collective agreements and employment contracts. In case of conflicting regulations, however, employees will always benefit from the most favourable rule, pursuant to the “favourability principle” (Günstigkeitsprinzip).

Austrian employment law distinguishes between white-collar (Angestellte) and blue-collar workers (Arbeiter), providing separate notice models for each.

White-collar workers are entitled to receive at least six weeks notice and up to five months notice, always depending on the length of their employment relationship. These terms may be modified, although no notice period may exceed six months. In addition, white-collar workers benefit from statutory notice dates, ensuring that employment relationships may only end at the end of any given annual quarter. It is possible to agree contractually that a termination is possible on the 15th or last day of any given month.

If not otherwise stipulated by collective agreement, blue-collar workers are subject to a notice period of at least 14 days. In practice, however, collective agreements often guarantee more generous notice periods. 

From 1 January 2021, the notice periods and termination dates for white-collar workers will apply to blue-collar workers. In industries where seasonal businesses predominate, collective agreements may contain different provisions and set shorter notice periods. When concluding employment agreements with blue-collar workers, it is also possible to contractually agree on a termination on the 15th or last day of any given month.

1.4 Involvement of works council

No involvement.

The works council must be informed of the employer’s intention to dismiss. The works council‘s consent is required for dismissal of the following employees:

  • members of the works council; and
  • candidates running for works council positions and members of the election committee for a period of three months following the announcement of the results of the election to the works council; and
  • employee representatives in a body of the employer; and
  • employees with diminished ability to work and employees in immediate danger of physical disability; and
  • employees over 60 years of age.

If a works council exists at an establishment, it must be informed of any proposed dismissals at least one week in advance. Within this timeframe, the works council may object, explicitly approve or refrain from commenting on the dismissal. The termination is void if the employer fails to comply with this requirement, either by failing to notify the works council or by failing to wait for its response within that week.

1.5 Involvement of a union

No involvement.

If there is no works council, consent is given by the union commissioner (the union representative employed with the respective employer). The union‘s consent is required for the dismissal of a union commissioner during their period of office and for six months thereafter.

No involvement.

1.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

Not necessary.

If the works council or union commissioner do not consent, consent can be substituted by a judicial or an arbitral decision.

Obligatory only for certain groups of employees (e.g. severely disabled persons, works council representatives, pregnant women, and employees on parental leave).

1.7 Collective redundancies

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.

Employer who expects to terminate at least 20 employees, five of which due to business related reasons, all within a 90-days’ period, is obliged  to duly consult the works council / union commissioner in order to possibly reach an agreement to save the employees and / or limit the number of terminations. The employer is obliged to provide the works council / union commissioner with written information concerning the reasons for termination, total number of employees, number, professions and positions of employees who are supposed to be terminated, election criteria for such employees, amounts and way of calculating their severance payments and measures undertaken to prevent such terminations. Employer is obligated to consider and explain all possibilities and suggestions that may lead to avoidance of terminations. Also, the Croatian Employment Agency needs to be informed about the previously mentioned points and consultations with the works council / union commissioner.

When collective dismissals (Massenkündigungen) are imminent, employers are required to notify the Austrian Employment Service 30 days in advance. For the sake of this notification procedure, collective dismissals are defined as employment terminations affecting:

  1. at least five workers in an establishment of 21 to 99 employees; or
  2. 5% or more of the workforce at an establishment of 100 to 600 employees; or
  3. at least 30 workers at an establishment of more than 600 employees; or
  4. at least five workers aged 50 or over, regardless of company size.

The requirements of the notification procedure are met if the employer informs the competent agency in writing and waits one month before carrying out the intended dismissals. Any failure to observe these rules will render all pertinent dismissals void.

1.8 Summary dismissals

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

Summary termination (summary dismissal) is defined as termination without notice, and is only lawful where there has been: 

  1. a serious breach of employment obligations, or
  2. the employment relationship between the parties is no longer possible for another important reason (there are, therefore, two possible reasons: (i) breach of employment obligations; or (ii) another important fact; in either case, the employment relationship must not be possible any longer).

The employee is to be dismissed within 15 days of the day of becoming aware of the fact / reason for dismissal.

A summary dismissal (Entlassung) does not require observance of any particular notice periods but must be issued without undue delay. Summary dismissals are possible for good reasons only, as regulated by law. Disloyalty, untrustworthiness, or persistent refusal to carry out one’s contractually agreed duties are typical reasons for a summary dismissal.

Summary dismissals are effective even if they do not meet the above requirements. However, summary dismissal may then be treated as a regular dismissal, meaning the respective protection against dismissal is applicable.

1.9 Consequences if requirements are not met

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.

If it is decided the dismissal is illegal, the employee is to be reinstated. Reinstatement is possible even before the end of the court procedure to determine the legality of the dismissal if the employee so requests. If the parties do not wish to continue with their employment relationship, the court shall at the employee‘s request determine:

  1. the date of termination of the employment contract; and
  2. compensation for damages, which ranges from three to eight times the employee’s average monthly salary over the previous three months (depending on the employee’s age, length of contract and obligations in relation to supporting family members or other dependants as defined by family law).

Non-compliance by the terminating party with the prescribed or agreed periods or dates of notice constitutes untimely notice. Although such untimely notice remains effective, it entitles the employee to dismissal compensation (Kündigungsentschädigung). Such compensation consists of the remuneration that the employee would have received had the dismissal been properly expressed (i.e. all due remuneration between the actual termination of employment and the date of termination prescribed by law, collective agreement, works agreement or employment contract).

An employee is entitled to General Protection against Dismissal may claim reinstatement in court. Reinstatement is granted if it is proven that the termination of the employment contract has adverse personal effects on the employee's life (e.g. little chance of finding employment of similar standing and income in a reasonable time) and the employer cannot adequately justify the termination.

1.10 Severance pay

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.

An employee with an open-ended contract who has two years’ continuous service with the same employer (and is not being dismissed due to an intentional breach of contractual obligation) is entitled to a severance payment. The statutory minimum severance payment is calculated by multiplying one-third of the average monthly salary in the preceding three months by the number of years’ continuous service with that employer. The severance payment is capped at six times the average monthly salary, unless otherwise provided for by law, by-law, collective agreement or work contract

Austrian law distinguishes between two severance pay models: one is applicable to all employment relationships established prior to 1 January 2003 (“old model”), and the other to employment agreements signed after that date (“new model”).

The old severance pay model requires the employer to pay a sum based on the length of service at the end of the employment relationship unless it is the employee who terminates the contract or if the employee is dismissed without notice for good cause (i.e. summary dismissal). If the employment relationship is terminated after three years employment, the employee is entitled to severance pay of two months salary. After 25 years, the employee is entitled to twelve months salary.

The new severance pay scheme requires the employer to pay a sum of 1.53% of every monthly salary into an employee severance fund (Betriebliche Vorsorgekasse). At the end of any given employment, the employee may then either request disbursement of the collected amount or leave it in the fund for further investment.

1.11 Non-competition clauses

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.

Post-contractual non-competition clauses must last no longer than two years from the date of termination of the contract. The employer is obliged to pay compensation (at least one-half of the average monthly salary paid in the last three months of employment). The covenant will not be valid if the employee is a minor or if the employee‘s salary amounts to less than the average national salary.

The non-competition clause does not apply if: (i) the employee terminates the contract without notice period (extraordinary termination) and does not state that he does agree that the clause applies; or (ii) if the employee is dismissed without a justified reason, unless the employer undertakes to pay the prescribed remuneration for the duration of the clause.

Non-competition clauses are only valid insofar as they last for no more than one year after the termination of employment, are restricted to the employer’s line of business and if the employee’s monthly income is above a certain threshold at the end of the employment relationship (e.g. for 2020, EUR 3,580 for contracts concluded after 29 December 2015). Also, contractual penalties are limited by law to six net monthly remunerations (without taking into account the 13th and 14th annual salary). If the parties agree to such a contractual penalty, the right to observe the non-competition clause or the compensation of any further damage is excluded.

A non-competition clause may not cause undue hardship to the employee’s career when weighed against the employer’s justified business interests.

Judges may limit the scope of a clause, or the contractual penalty to be paid when violating the law. Non-competition clauses are generally rendered void when the employer carries out the dismissals.

1.12 Miscellaneous

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.

Not applicable.

Not applicable.

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.

It should be noted that the title ‘managing director’ is not recognised under the Croatian Companies Act or other relevant applicable legislation. The Croatian Companies Act recognises only a ‘director’, who is authorised to represent the company and obliged to be registered as a member of the management board with the respective commercial court.

A managing director need not to have an employment agreement with the company, or any other type of agreement, in order to be able to represent the company.

Where a managing director has a  managing / service agreement  which falls under the regulation of Croatian obligatory law, only the provisions of the managing / service agreement apply. If aspects of the relationship are not dealt with in the managing / service agreement, the relevant provisions of the Croatian Obligations Act will apply.

Where a managing director does not have any employment or managing / service agreement with the company, he shall be treated as a member of the management board only.

The table below sets out the position under Croatian law with respect to the managing directors of a limited liability company, with and without service agreements.

2.1 Reasons for dismissal

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.

No special reasons required (unless otherwise specified within the statute of the company or the contract itself).

Where the managing director has a service agreement, the provisions of that service agreement (and consequently the Croatian Obligations Act) will apply.

If the managing director is a member of the management board according to the statute of the company (and not only appointed by resolution of the shareholders), the company statute may set out that revocation is only possible for special reasons.

A company may revoke the appointment or terminate the service contract without cause, but must do so in compliance with applicable notice periods and termination dates.

2.2 Form

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.

Valid shareholders’ resolution on revocation of appointment as member  of the management board. Registration of this revocation with the court registry. Termination of the service agreement in the same form in which the agreement has been signed (Obligations Act provisions shall apply).

A valid shareholder’s resolution is required on revocation of appointment as managing director and on termination of the service contract. A managing director has only to be notified in writing if so agreed in the service contract.

2.3 Notice period

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.

According to the Croatian Companies Act, the appointment of a director of the company can be revoked at any time without notice (for no special reason). Some restrictions (not strictly defined) can be set out within the statute of the company.

If the director has a service agreement, the notice period will be as set out in the service agreement.

Revocation of appointment: possible without notice.

Termination of the service contract: Austrian law does provide statutory minimum notice periods and dates, and rarely does collective agreements and their notice periods and termination dates apply unless a more favourable contractual agreement exists. Managing directors generally have fixed-term contracts or long contractual notice periods.

2.4 Involvement of works council

No involvement.

No involvement.

No involvement.

2.5 Involvement of a union

No involvement.

No involvement.

No involvement.

2.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

Not necessary.

Respective commercial court brings a resolution on registration of the resolution in the court registry. The court’s resolution and registration are declaratory.

Not required.

2.7 Collective redundancies

Not applicable.

Not applicable.

Not applicable.

2.8 Summary dismissals

No special rules apply.

Not applicable.

A summary dismissal (‘Entlassung’) does not require observance of any particular notice periods, but must be issued without undue delay. Summary dismissals are possible for good reasons or serious breach of duty, as regulated by law. Disloyalty, untrustworthiness, or persistent refusal to carry out one’s contractually agreed duties are typical reasons for a summary dismissal.

2.9 Consequences if requirements are not met

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.

If there is no valid shareholder resolution, the revocation will be invalid and the court will refuse to register it in the court registry. Where the managing director has a service agreement, he could claim:

  1. compensation for damages; or
  2. fulfilment of contractual obligations in accordance with the provisions of the Croatian Obligations Act.

If there is no valid shareholder resolution, the revocation of appointment as managing director will be invalid.

It is possible for the revocation to be valid and for the termination of the service contract to be invalid. If this is the case, the managing director is entitled to continued payment of salary and adequate employment.

2.10 Severance pay

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.

Severance pay may be specified in the managing director’s service agreement (this is usually a large sum).

Austrian law distinguishes between two severance pay schemes: one is applicable to all employment relationships established prior to 1 January 2003 (‘old model’), and the other to employment agreements signed after that date (‘new model’).

 The old severance pay model requires the employer to pay a sum based on the employee’s length of service at the end of the employment relationship unless it is the employee who terminates the contract or if the employee is dismissed without notice for good cause (i.e. summary dismissal). If the employment relationship is terminated after three years employment, the employee is entitled to severance pay of two months salary. After 25 years, the employee is entitled to twelve months salary.

The new severance pay scheme requires the employer to pay a sum of 1.53 % of every monthly salary into an employee severance fund (‘Betriebliche Vorsorgekasse’). At the end of any given employment, the employee may then either request disbursement of the collected amount or to leave it in the fund for further investment.

2.11 Non-competition clauses

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.

The managing director, as a member of the management board, is prohibited from doing the following without the approval of the supervisory board (or the shareholders, if the company does not have a supervisory board):

  1. being a member of the supervisory board or management board of another company with the same business activities; or
  2. performing business activities equal to those of the company for his or somebody else’s account; or
  3. using the company’s premises for performing business for his own or somebody else’s profit. The company is entitled to compensation for any damage caused.

Non-competition clauses are only valid insofar as they are concluded for the duration of no more than one year after the termination of employment, are restricted to the employer’s line of business and if the employee’s monthly income is above a certain threshold at the end of the employment relationship (e.g. for 2020, EUR 3,580 for contracts concluded after the 29th December 2015) Also, contractual penalties are limited by law to an amount of six net monthly remunerations (without taking into account the 13th and 14th annual salary). If the parties agree on such a contractual penalty, the right to observe the non-competition clause or the compensation of any further damage is excluded.

A non-competition clause may not represent an undue hardship on the employee’s career when weighed against the employer’s justified business interests. Judges may limit the scope of a clause, or the contractual penalty to be paid when violating the law. Non-competition clauses are generally rendered void when employers are responsible for dismissals.

2.12 Miscellaneous

Not applicable.

Not applicable.

Not applicable.