Singapore's Ministry of Manpower investigating firm after ex-employee committed suicide allegedly due to harsh working conditions

The Ministry of Manpower said that it has reached out to the deceased's mother and is looking into the allegations raised about the firm where she used to work before the suicide. — TODAY pic
The Ministry of Manpower said that it has reached out to the deceased's mother and is looking into the allegations raised about the firm where she used to work before the suicide. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Nov 23 — The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is investigating allegations made against a firm here where a former employee has committed suicide allegedly due to harsh working conditions.

A Facebook post written by another former employee, which has since made its rounds on social media, claims that her ex-colleague, a young Malaysian worker, had taken her own life in December last year after she faced “constant bullying and insults” by the director of the firm.

The post also claimed that her employment was terminated after she failed to achieve sales targets.

The Facebook post was accompanied by a suicide note, which the writer had obtained from the mother of the Malaysian worker. In the note, the deceased mentioned the burden she faced from the sudden loss of income, abuse at work and false accusations that were made against her during the four months she was working at the firm.

The Facebook post claimed that the deceased was accused of sleeping on the job during working hours even though she was resting for a late shift and was not scheduled to work at that time.

She was also allegedly told by the director of the firm to pay tax penalties amounting to more than S$1,000 for breaching her employment contract.

TODAY is not naming the parties involved because the case is still under investigation.

The ministry said that the Malaysian worker did not make a report before her death. About 11 months later, her mother contacted the ministry on Oct 29.

“We have reached out to (the worker’s mother), and are looking into the allegations raised about the workplace,” MOM said.

First job in Singapore

Apart from the director of the firm, eight former employees and two who are now working there spoke to TODAY on the condition that they not be named.

TODAY also interviewed the mother of the deceased, who said that her daughter used to be a bubbly girl when she first started working at the firm in August last year.

This was her daughter’s first job in Singapore and she took it up to lessen the financial burden of her family, the mother added.

She later found out that her daughter had to work very late and skip dinner often, and was constantly berated at work.

She said that her daughter once told her that she thought about quitting her job because she was losing sleep over it.She said that her daughter had applied for six-day leave to attend a wedding of a family member in Penang in September last year.

The leave, which was originally approved, was later reduced to four days.Her daughter was told that her job contract was terminated on the night she was supposed to go on leave.

She was allegedly told by the firm’s director that she had breached the contract and had to pay the tax penalties.

The mother, who lives in Muar, Malaysia, believes that this was what spurred her daughter to commit suicide.

Asked why she raised the incident almost a year after her daughter’s death, she said that she had no money and passport and did not know how to navigate the legal process.

The movement control order in Malaysia due to the Covid-19 pandemic also prevented her from entering Singapore.

It was when a former employee of the firm reached out to her that she asked for help to file a complaint to the relevant authorities.

She told TODAY in Mandarin: “My daughter was a very filial, bubbly and compassionate child who, after the job, lost joy in her life. I only want to seek justice as there is nothing that can bring back my daughter now.”

Several of the former employees who spoke to TODAY claimed that working conditions at the firm were “unbearable”.

They also claimed that they had been verbally abused and insulted repeatedly during their employment. Some of them worked there for as long as eight months while a few left within days. 

However, a current employee, who has been working with the firm for over a year, said that while the director of the firm can be hot-tempered, he has good intentions.

“He just wants his employees to be better, for their own good,” she said. 

‘Baseless and malicious accusations: director

During an interview that lasted more than an hour last Tuesday (Nov 17), the firm’s director repeatedly told TODAY that this was a “coordinated business attack”.

He has made a police report on the harassment that he faced online.

He said that the deceased’s employment contract was terminated due to her poor work performance and was told to pay tax penalties because “the company has the responsibility to collect the tax amount from the employee”.

Later, through his lawyer, the director said in a statement that he understands that the deceased was struggling with work demands since it was her first time working in Singapore.

He added that she was also “dealing with some issues in her personal relationship” last year.

However, he said that the timing of the viral post is “highly suspect” given that the suicide took place nearly a year ago.

The director also said that he “strenuously denies” any bullying and verbal abuse at the workplace. 

“The Facebook group containing numerous baseless and malicious allegations have been set up by disgruntled ex-employees, and I believe that the posts contained in the group are intentionally designed to hurt me, my family and, most importantly, my business.

“I have since contacted her family out of goodwill to express my shock at this group of disgruntled ex-employees who have chosen to publicise her suicide at her family's expense for the purposes of maliciously hurting my business.

“I also apologised because their daughter's suicide would not have been publicised if not for my business competitors wanting to maliciously and wrongfully accuse my company of contributing to her suicide.

“While I am a strict and demanding employer, I am also a fair one, and I believe many of my present employees will attest to the positive work culture at my company.”  — TODAY

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