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Fear of retrenchment? Here’s 5 things you can do to protect yourself and your career


by CashOctopus • December 2, 2019

If you look at the Ministry of Manpower’s website, you can see some grim statistics. Each year about 0.2% of the total population of Singapore gets retrenched, and the first three quarters of 2019 have already seen about 8,400 people go through this situation, from both the public and the private sector.

Some of the most publicized cuts this year were from DFS Group and SPH in September and October, although the general public wasn’t expecting these developments.

It’s no wonder that most Singaporeans have a lot of anxiety about retrenchment. People who are retrenched feel angry and powerless, especially if they weren’t prepared for this possibility.

But people who prepare in advance are less at risk for depression or anxiety because they know exactly how to deal with this situation to make the most of their time off and to get a new job as soon as possible.

This article aims to help you understand your rights and the steps you should take before and after this process so that you can protect your career.

Fight For Your Rights Because Chances Are Your Company Won’t

If you’ve done a little research about retrenchment, you’ve probably also heard about retrenchment benefits. According to the current law in Singapore, people need to have been employed for a minimum of two years at the company to get these benefits.

However, some thoughtful CEOs grant every retrenched employee benefits out of courtesy, even those who have worked for less than two years.

Browse through your employment contract to find out what benefits you’re entitled to. Otherwise, if you’re part of a union, you might find this information in the collective agreement.

Some employees don’t have a pre-negotiated amount for the benefits in the case of retrenchment so that this sum will be established with your employer. MoM advises that employees should be entitled to at least two weeks to one month of pay for each year they’ve been employed. Keep in mind that this is just a rule of thumb and companies are not legally required to offer these sums.

If you work in a unionized firm, you should contact your representative to find out whether everything is legal and if you will get benefits.

The law states that you will be able to get all the previous salaries and any additional sums you’re owed during your last day of work, but you have to claim these amounts.

The problem is that some companies bend the law so as not to pay employees what they’re owed. Recent research suggests that one method is ending the contracts with one month’s notice, according to employment contracts.

Some companies prefer to cover up retrenchments because they fear they’ll get bad press, even though the law requires them to announce MoM immediately. If you suspect that your employer is not honest with you, you should report all illegalities to the Ministry of Manpower.

2. Plan For A Smooth Leave

There are several things to consider if you want to make your leave run as smoothly as possible.

First of all, be careful not to burn any bridges with the people left behind, including your former employee, unless you need to take legal action against them. Otherwise, your former employer and co-workers may help you network and get a good job soon.

The best thing to do is to act professionally and not show any grudges. Don’t bad-mouth your employer and work hard until it’s time to leave, even though you might feel inclined to take longer breaks or show up later for work.

Secondly, keep in mind that the people left behind are not responsible for your retrenchment, so not burning any bridges also entails developing a transition plan so you can hand over all your responsibilities.

Of course, if your whole department goes through retrenchment or if your job post is no longer necessary for the company’s plans, you can skip this step.

Thirdly, remember to inventory your things, including legal files and any equipment you’ve been using, because it’s illegal to take them home with you. That entails a lot of paperwork, so set some time in your schedule for that.

3. Start Thinking Of Your Next Job

And then start acting like you want your next job. If you have a lot of hopes and years invested in your current position, this might seem difficult to do. But you need to find a way to detach yourself from the job you held, which is just a chapter in your life and shouldn’t define you as a person.

Start updating your resume with all the experience and skills you’ve accumulated at this company. Performance reviews are a good place to start because they speak volumes for your achievements, and you can also ask for recommendations.

If you’ve written or co-authored significant articles or reports, if you’ve got new certifications and have attended various training courses, remember to add them to your resume.

Remember that your resume needs to be tailored to the jobs for which you’ll apply, so each accomplishment or skill you have needs to be reinterpreted as relevant in that context.

4. Plan Your Life Between Jobs In Advance

It’s important to be prepared for the difficult times that will follow. People who find themselves without a job, even if they knew that this might happen for some time are likely to become depressed. The change in routine and not being able to find a new job quickly are factors that increase stress.

That’s why you have to plan for this period before you get there.

Firstly, make sure you have some savings that will help you get by, on top of the benefits you’re entitled to. This safety net should increase your morale, especially if you didn’t get a new job as fast as you’ve hoped.

Secondly, plan a new routine that will help you remain productive and keep your positive mindset. Plan your interviews in the morning. Send out resumes in the afternoon, or network with people who might help you get a new job. Spend an hour each evening learning a new skill or language that could increase your chances at your next interview.

5. Actively Seek A New Job

According to a new plan set forth this October by the National Trades Union Congress, employees should receive training and learn new skills before retrenching. This strategy reduces the time lapsed between finding a new job and keeps them feeling positive.

Even if the NTUC initiative isn’t yet well established to help people who will be retrenched, you can take matters into your hands.

You can start by finding a course that interests you on the SkillsFuture website. Some courses are free, and some are subsidized, so you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for them. Remember to choose a relevant course for the next job you want to get, though.

You should also network as much as possible with other professionals to increase your chances. Conversely, maybe this is the time to start your own business if you think you have a skill or passion that can appeal to the public.

If you couldn’t find a new job before being retrenched, contact Workforce Singapore that will connect you to certain support agencies, guide you, or offer a training grant.