Singapore is one of the most progressive cities in the world. It is home to over five million people and a melting pot of different cultures. Singapore is also one of the most expat friendly countries in the world, having welcomed two million expatriates over the years. Integration policies are in place and the use of English as its common universal language has made it easier to bridge the gap between Asian and western cultures, with many people coming over for better career opportunities, quality of lie and more.
Many expats who worked here have made Singapore their home because it offers a very good quality of life, high standard of education, low crime rate and an efficient medical system.
Moreover, expats who have brought their families to Singapore believe that the good mix of traditional and modern way of living is a great way to build families and raise children.
Applying for a job
Applying for a Work Pass
Pass types for professionals
Who is eligible for an Employment Pass?
Other work passes and permits
Contract of Service
Sick leave in special circumstances
Maternity and paternity leave
A tiny bit of information
Authority and cooperation
Leaving a Job
Links and resources
Before going through the process of applying for any job in Singapore, it is best to gauge if you are eligible to work in the country. The Ministry of Manpower has provided a self-assessment tool to check your eligibility. This is not, however, an accurate reflection of your eligibility - other factors such as employer’s quota for a work pass and your personal background and experience are not calculated in this tool.
Figure 1: Before working in Singapore, you must hit certain criteria. Credit: Pixabay
It is absolutely imperative to note that you cannot apply for a work visa without a job offer and a salary offer that meets the minimum level required.
Figure 2: Process of getting a job in Singapore.
There are specialised professions that require registration with the government and accreditation with the specialist board. This includes dentists, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, engineers, land surveyors, and lawyers. Compliance to local government regulations is compulsory.
It is the responsibility of the employer or the employment agency to apply for your visa. You only come to Singapore when your Work Pass is approved.
Who is eligible to apply?
- For foreign nationals, managers and executives
- Must meet minimum salary of $3,600 (Singaporean dollars, per month)
- Must have at least a bachelor’s degree
- Foreign entrepreneurs willing to operate a start-up business
Personalised Employment Pass
- High-earning Employment Pass holders or overseas foreign professionals
- PEP gives candidates greater flexibility than Employment Pass
Figure 3: Pass types for professionals in Singapore.
The Employment Pass is open to all foreign professionals from all nationalities. Foreign professionals must have the following:
- A job offer in Singapore
- Managerial or executive level; specialised job
- Must meet the minimum monthly salary requirement of S$3,600
- Adequate qualifications with a university degree, sufficient work experience and specialist skills
Additional notes on salaries and qualifications:
- Newly graduates from reputable institutions may qualify as long as they meet the minimum salary requirement
- More experienced professionals in age, work background and advanced studies need higher salaries to qualify
Who is eligible to apply?
- For mid-level skilled employees
- Must meet minimum salary of S$2,200 per month; salary will depend on age and work experience
- With at least a bachelor’s degree or a diploma
- Technicians or specialists with technical certificates are qualified provided the certification was completed after one year of full time study
Work Permit for Foreign Worker
- Semi-skilled foreign worker
- Job sector: construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard, process or services sector
- Other work requirements will vary depending on the sector
- For spouses and children of eligible Employment Pass or S Pass holders
Figure 4: Other work passes and permits in Singapore.
As an Employment or S Pass holder you may bring your family members to Singapore if you pass the following requirements:
- You have a valid Employment or S Pass
- Your fixed monthly income is $6,000 or more
- You are sponsored by an esteemed company fully registered in Singapore.
You can apply for a Dependant’s Pass for your legally married wife and children below 21 years old, including legally adopted children.
Work permit holders are not allowed to bring any member of the family.
This is Singapore’s equivalent to labour law.
Who is covered by the Employment Act?
- Under contract with employer
- Local and foreign employees
- Full time, part time, temporary and contractual employees
- Employees paid on hourly, daily, monthly or piece-rated terms
If you are a manager or an executive and earning a fixed monthly salary of more than $4,500, you are not covered by the Employment Act; the terms and conditions of your employment will be covered by your employment contract.
Furthermore, foreign professionals are covered by the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, which clearly states the employers’ responsibilities and obligations to foreign workers he or she employs.
It defines the employee and employer relationship and its terms and conditions.
As an employee, it is your right to receive key employment terms (KET) in writing within 14 days from the beginning of your employment. The terms of KET are covered in the Employment Act. You should receive a soft or hard copy of your KET from your employer.
Employer’s full name
Employee’s full name
Job title, duties and responsibilities
Date of beginning of employment
Duration of employment (if employee is on a fixed-term contract)
Work hours arrangement
- Daily working hours (eg. 9:00-5:00)
- Number of working days per week (eg. five)
- Rest day/s (eg. Saturday and Sunday)
Overtime payment period (if it varies from item 7)
Overtime rate of payment
Other salary-related benefits such as, but not limited to,
Type of leave such as
Other medical benefits such as
Place of work (optional). Although this information is optional, it is best encouraged to include this information.
Figure 5: A typical KET in Singapore.
Each employee covered under the Employment Act is entitled to annual leave and those who have worked for at least three months. Annual leave entitlement depends on the number of years you have rendered your employer. Computation will start from your first day of service.
Years of Service
Days of Leave
8th and thereafter
Figure 6: Days of leave depending on years of service in Singapore.
For example, if the employee’s first day of work is 15 February 2012, the calculation of the annual leave entitlement will be:
Period of employment
Actual months of service
Annual leave entitlement
15 February 2012 to 14 February 2013
7 days (1st year)
15 February 2013 to 14 February 2014
8 days (2nd year)
15 February 2014 to 14 February 2015
9 days (3rd year)
Figure 7: Calculation of days of leave.
Your annual leave is pro-rated if you have worked at least three months but less than a year, the basis of which is the number of months you have rendered. This is also applicable if you are still on probation. On the other hand, your annual leave is pro-rated if you worked for more than a year. The basis of calculating your pro-rated leave is the number of months you have rendered in your current year.
No. of completed months of service x No. of days of annual leave entitlement
- If the fraction of a day is below one-half, it is rounded down; if the fraction is more than one-half, it is rounded up.
If the employee’s first day of work is 15 February 2012 and ended service on 30 June 2012, the number of completed months is four months. The period from 16 to 30 June 2012 is disregarded because it is not a completed month.
15 February 2012 to 14 June 2012 = 4 completed months
If the employee completed four months of service and is entitle to 10 days of leave, the computation will be as follows:
(4 completed months/12 months) x 10 days of leave = 3.33 days
Since the fraction is less than one-half, it is rounded down to three days.
Periods of unpaid leave is excluded in the computation when calculating annual leave entitlement. However, if you have taken extended unpaid leave, your employer can pro-rate your annual leave based on the number of completed months. Furthermore, when you resign, the period of notice when you tendered your resignation is included in the computation.
An employee is entitled to 10 days of annual leave and took two weeks of unpaid leave in April. She tendered her resignation on 1 September and is serving one month’s notice.
Her pro-rated annual leave entitlement from 1 January to 31 August excludes the month of April and includes September. It is calculated follows:
(7 completed months/12 months) x 10 days of leave = 6 days
You are entitled to paid sick leave if:
- You have been working with your employer for at least three months
- You have notified your employer within 48 hours of your absence
- Your sick leave is certified by the company’s doctor, company-approved doctor or a government doctor (including medical practitioners such as doctors and dentists from approved public medical institutions).
This covers outpatient and hospitalisation sick leave.
If you have worked for six months or more with your employer, you are entitled to full paid sick leave – 14 days for outpatient non-hospitalization leave and 60 days hospitalisation leave. The 14 days’ outpatient non-hospitalisation leave is counted in the 60 days’ hospitalisation leave.
If you have already used your 14 days of outpatient non-hospitalisation leave, the number of days you can use from your 60 days’ hospitalisation leave is 46 (60 -14 = 46).
For new employees, sick leave is pro-rated according to your months of service. You must have rendered at least three months of service to be entitled. You can see below the pro-rated table for employees who have completed three to six months of service.
No. of months of service completed
No. of days of outpatient non-hospitalisation leave
No. of days of hospitalisation leave
6 and thereafter
Figure 8: Hospitalisation leave depending on years of service in Singapore.
As stated in the Employment Act, your employer will bear the cost of your medical consultation fee if you have rendered service for at least three months. Reimbursement for all medical costs, including prescribed medicine, is based on the employment contract or the company’s agreement with the union. If you fall sick during public holidays, annual leave, rest days or non-working days, it is possible to claim reimbursement for your medical consultation fees.
For paid outpatient non-hospitalisation leave and for paid hospitalisation leave, your employer will pay you with your gross rate of pay.
- You are not required to apply for paid sick leave if you fall sick during:
- Rest days
- Public holidays
- Non-working days
- Annual leave
- Unpaid leave
- If you are on your annual leave, you may discuss with your employer if you can convert your annual leave to sick leave should you fall sick during this time.
- If you are sick on a half working day, it is considered as one day’s sick leave.
- If you are on sick leave during your resignation notice, you are still entitled to full sick leave benefits if you have completed six months or more of service. You are entitled to pro-rated sick leave for your three to six months of service.
- Your employer has the discretion to approve your sick leave entitlement if you consult a private doctor, overseas doctor or Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. You may refer to your employment contract to validate this. Just the same, you are excused from work based on your medical certificate.
- If you have used all your sick leave, your employer may allow you to go on an unpaid sick leave, give you other work assignments that are acceptable to both you and your employer or have another assessment to see if you are still fit for work.
- If, in any case, the doctor assessed that you are unfit to continue work, your employer can terminate your services with proper notice or pay you in lieu of notice. There are two ways wherein your employer can compensate for your termination based on what is stated in your employment contract and also on the goodwill of your employer.
You are entitled to a maternity leave of 12 weeks if:
- You are covered by the Employment Act
- You have rendered service for a continuous period of at least three months prior to the birth of your child
Only the first eight weeks of leave is paid by your employer under these conditions:
- You have rendered service for a continuous period of at least three months prior to the birth of your child.
- You have, at the most, two living children during your delivery. If you have multiple births (eg. twins) during your first pregnancy, you are still entitled to paid maternity leave for eight weeks.
- You have given notice to your employer at least one week before you go on maternity leave and informed them at the time of your delivery. If you are unable to give your notice, you are only entitled to half of the payment.
- The last four weeks of maternity leave is not paid by your employer. It will depend on your employment contract.
For more information about maternity leave, click here.
One of the conditions to qualify for Government-Paid Paternity Leave (GPPL) is if your child is a Singaporean citizen. For non-Singaporean citizens, you can check with your employer on whether they have initiatives on company-paid paternity leave.
The Singaporean government encourages employers to adopt family-friendly company policies to allow employees to enjoy family time.
For more information on paternity leave, click here.
You are entitled to two days of childcare leave under the Employment Act. The requirements are:
- Your child is below seven years old, including legally adopted or step-children
- You have rendered work service to your employer for a continuous period of at least three months
Please note that your childcare leave is capped at two days per parent regardless of the number of your children
Some parents use their childcare leave to bring their children to school or to attend their graduation or moving up ceremony.
There are 11 public holidays in Singapore within a year. These are:
- New Year’s Day (January 1)
- Chinese New Year – first day (variable)
- Chinese New Year – second day (variable)
- Hari Raya Puasa (variable)
- Hari Raya Haji (variable)
- Good Friday (variable)
- Labour Day (May 1)
- Vesak Day (variable)
- National Day (August 9)
- Deepavali (variable)
- Christmas Day (December 25)
If you are covered by the Employment Act and a public holiday falls on your rest day, you are entitled to a paid public holiday the following day.
If you have a managerial or an executive position, the basis for paid public holiday is in the terms of your contract.
If a public holiday falls on a Saturday, you are entitled to a paid public holiday the following working day which is Monday.
Figure 9: Working in Singapore has many benefits as an expat. Credit: Pixabay
All foreigners working in Singapore are required to pay tax. Your tax liability will depend on your tax residency status. If you are issued with a Work Pass that is valid for one year, you are automatically considered a tax resident. Furthermore, you are considered a tax resident if:
- You worked for at least 183 days within a calendar year
- You worked for at least 183 days for two consecutive years
- You continuously worked for three years.
Individuals are taxed based on a progressive resident tax rate as shown below.
Gross Tax Payable ($)
On the first 20,000
On the next 10,000
On the first 30,000
On the next 10,000
On the first 40,000
On the next 40,000
On the first 80,000
On the next 40,000
On the first 120,000
On the next 40,000
On the first 160,000
On the next 40,000
On the first 200,000
On the next 40,000
On the first 240,000
On the next 40,000
On the first 280,000
On the next 40,000
On the first 320,000
In excess of 320,000
Figure 10: Tax paid with regards to income in Singapore.
Income from overseas are not subject to tax in Singapore. There is no need to declare income that is not taxable.
The due date for filing of taxes in Singapore is April 15. Filing of personal tax is available online or by mail. You can download the online form starting on March 1.
- For tax residents – Form B1
- For self-employed – Form B
- For non-resident individuals – Form M
Late filing and non-filing of taxes are subject to penalties.
For more information about a foreign professional’s tax obligations, click here.
Singapore boasts of merging the cultural influences of the east and west. Although multinational companies practice western-style work culture, most of the local government and private companies are influenced by traditional Asian culture.
The authority structure of the organisation is clearly defined. You cannot openly question your superior’s decision. This is considered an embarrassment and a public humiliation of your superior. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you respect your employer or superior in any given situation.
Collectivism is working together for the greater good. The best way to achieve company’s goals is to work together as a team. There is a high premium on teamwork, cooperation and group harmony. Therefore, sharing the rewards with one another is embedded in its culture, whereas in a traditional western work environment, the achievement of an individual is highly valued.
Singapore is a country of many rules. These rules are not only in place but strictly implemented. You have to adhere to the established way of working within the organisation. Sets of rules are in place in any given situation and you cannot easily argue with those. That said, Singaporeans have realised that creativity can be stifled by strict rules, and in general they have now learned to encourage creativity among employees, but within a set of boundaries.
You may at any time end the employee-employer relationship by serving an advance written notice to your employer. You may however pay compensation to your employer in lieu of notice. The length of notice will depend on the terms of your contract. However, if it is not stated in the contract, this is how it will apply:
Length of Service
Less than 26 weeks
26 weeks to less than 2 years
2 years to less than 5 years
5 years and above
Figure 11: Notice period to serve depending on length of service in Singapore.
It is very important that you have your employer sign your notice of resignation to acknowledge receipt of document to avoid any miscommunication or disputes.
The notice period starts on the day the notice is given and it includes pubic holidays, rest days and non-working days.
Both parties may also agree to waive the notice period but it should be done in writing.
We hope that this document helped you make a decision to live and work in Singapore. Please feel free to comment and share.
Ministry of Manpower: click here
Employment Practices Act: click here
Employment practices with regard to leave: click here
Public holidays in Singapore: click here
Employment practices and contracts: click here
Termination of employment: click here
Essential tax information: click here