Andrew Michael Teo
The private security industry can be considered to be one of the fastest growing industries in Singapore and is expected to continue its growth.
But as the industry grows, growth in the wallets of security guards are not kept in pace. Security guards work mostly long hours, about 12 hours a shift, earning between $ 1,300 to $ 1,800 per month gross, depending on seniority and location of workplace . Some even performed 24 hours shift, either at different site or same site, for the same agency or another agency, 3 to 4 days a week just to earn a bit more. This is even more obvious for those with families and children to feed. What can be more pressing for those security guards with families abroad ?
An insight study into the components of a private security guard’s wages will show how most private security agencies engineered the wage of a security guard for the purposes of lowering employer’s contribution to the employee CPF Account, and also as a means for possible tax evasion. All these are done in the name of “higher take home pay” !
In Singapore, all employers and employees are required by the CPF Act to contribute proportionately according to prescribed rates of contribution to the employees’ CPF Account. The rate of contribution varies with the age and gross salary of the employee. However, having undertaken the task to experience life as a security guard, I had personally experienced how salaries of security guards are actually computed:
|An Illustration – for a 45 year old Permanent FULL-TIME Employed Security Guard|
|Basic Salary||$ 840.00|
|i) Transport||$ 200.00|
|ii) Meal||$ 300.00|
|Total Gross Salary per month inclusive of 4 days off per month||$ 1,500|
Some agencies even went to the extent of including mobile phone allowances! Since most private security guards employed are either retirees or of little formal education, they do not fully understand the the differences between Reimbursement and Allowances, and hence such terms are used inter-changeably. But since “reimbursement” does not form part of the security guard’s salaries, there is, hence, no need for the employer to contribute this portion of “income” towards the employee’s CPF Account.
This, thus, has benefited the employer both ways since “reimbursements” are tax deductible on the one hand, and on the other hand, employer does not have to contribute this portion of employer’s CPF towards the employee which could result in substantial savings for the employer considering the number of private security guards he employs.
However, while the employer benefited from the above “engineered” salary package, the employee, though he still brings home between $ 1,200 to $ 1,300 per month net or “higher take home pay” – as they call it, fails to understand the problems associated with this, like securing home loans for those who are single and preparing to start a family; applying for long-term visa for those with foreign spouses, etc, as his declared income renders him unqualified even though he earns way above his declared salary.
Moreover, how often are Security Guards paid for overtime or were they ever paid at all for their overtime work? And how many of these security agencies really conform to the Employment Act ? In an email to the Ministry of Manpower, I received the following responses from Senior Labour Officer Ms Chong-Tan Sok Peng.
Are persons employed as security guards in sites where there is only ONE security guard is employed allowed to work continuously for 12 hours?
Ans : The employee should not be asked to work continuously for 12 hours. The Employment Act states that an employee may be required to work eight hours continuously. In such an instance, a break or breaks must be given so that the employee can have his/her meal(s). The duration of the break(s) should be no less than 45 minutes.
At present, those who are employed as security guards and worked on holidays are only paid an additional of $20 on top of their daily wages contrary to the prescribed 1.5 times. Is this allowed?
Ans: Under the Employment Act, if the employee was required to work on a public holiday, he will be entitled to one extra day’s pay on top of the normal pay. The formula to calculate one day’s pay for work performed on a public holiday is : (12 x monthly basic rate of pay) / (52 x average number of working days in a week)
Are employers allowed to deploy their guards for 24 hours even though those guards are deployed at different sites during those 24 hours?
Ans: No. The employee should not work for 24 hours continuously per day whether at the same job site or at different job sites.
As the labour movement works its best to enhance the image of the Private Security Industry and private security guards to attract more of the unemployed into the industry, more needs be done to protect the financial interests of these Security Guards against unscrupulous employers.