Global HR Insights
Time off

The Singapore Annual Leave Entitlement Guide

16 February 2024

13 min read

Kelsey Breton
Kelsey Breton

A decent work life balance is the key to an engaged and healthy workforce. As an employer, understanding your employees’ rights and benefits regarding Singapore leave entitlements is crucial for fostering an engaged workforce, reducing burnout and ensuring compliance with local Singapore regulations

Annual leave is one of the more standard elements of employee benefits and has its own set of rules and regulations unique to Singapore leave entitlements. Here, we’ll explore the laws, requirements, challenges, and strategies for administering, tracking and managing annual leave under Singapore leave entitlement regulations to help you ensure compliance and boost employee engagement.

What is annual leave?

Annual leave refers to a period of paid time off granted to employees by their employer. Apart from Singapore public holidays like National Day or Deepavali, employees can utilize their annual leave for any reason, whether for vacation or just for a day off. The allocation of this type of Singapore leave is usually set out in the employment agreement with the number of days granted per year based on company policies and HR calendars, or employee’s tenure. 

Is annual leave mandatory?

As per the Singapore Employment Act, annual leave is a mandatory form of Singapore leave for employees. Under this protection, employees are entitled to receive a designated number of paid annual leave each year. 

Employers are mandated to keep accurate and current records of Singapore leave, including annual leave taken by their employees. They may compensate employees for any unused annual leave days upon their departure from the company, but are not legally required to do so. Alternatively, employees may be allowed to use the remaining annual leave to offset their notice period, at the company’s discretion. Whichever method, the Singapore government does mandate that employers are required to allow employees to carry forward their annual leave, which guarantees that employees receive their full entitlement of annual leave during their employment. 

It is also worth noting that an increasing number of companies are offering unlimited paid time off as an employee benefit. Under these circumstances, the regulations governing annual leave no longer apply, as the Employment Act establishes a minimum standard while unlimited paid time off exceeds this minimum, removing the need for regulation. Similarly, unlimited paid time off policies aim to empower employees by granting them greater control over their time off. Enforcing the strict rules of annual leave regulations may conflict with this flexibility.

Who is eligible for paid annual leave?

Under the Singapore Employment Act, all employees are eligible for annual leave if they have worked in the company for at least 3 months

The annual leave entitlement for employees is based on their duration of service with the company, starting from their first day of employment. 

For full-time employees, the number of annual leave days increases gradually for each year of service, starting at 7 days during the first year and adding 1 day for each subsequent year. This progression culminates at 14 days after the eighth year.

On the other hand, part-time employees are entitled to annual leave in proportion to the yearly entitlement of a full-time employee, based on the number of working hours. Similarly, employers can also offer more generous leave policies than the minimum requirement. 

Example of part-time employee annual leave calculation:

Full-time annual leave entitlement: 14 days per year

Part-time employee: Rachel works 20 hours per week

Calculation: 

  1. Full-time working hours: 40 hours per week (assuming a standard full-time work week)
  2. Rachel’s proportion of working hours: 20 hours / 40 hours = 50%
  3. Rachel’s pro-rated annual leave: 14 days * 50% = 7 days

Therefore, Rachel is entitled to 7 days of annual leave per year based on her pro-rated calculations. 

Can annual leave be pro-rated?

In Singapore, annual leave can be pro-rated in the following situations:

  • For part-time employees: As mentioned above, part-time employees are entitled to annual leave based on their weekly working hours. This inherently involves prorating their leave based on the reduced work hours compared to a full-time employee. 
  • For incomplete years of service: Whether you’re full-time or part-time, if you have yet to complete a full year of service, the Singapore leave entitlement is pro-rated based on the number of complete months as per below: 

(Number of completed months of service/12 months) x full-time leave entitlement.

Omni tip for Singapore leave: Proration is always calculated by rounding down to the nearest whole day. If the fraction of a day is less than one-half, round it down; if it is half or more, round it up to one day.

Singapore annual leave

Carrying Forward or Encashment of Annual Leave 

Employees covered under Part IV of the Employment Act, which encompasses workers earning a monthly basic salary of $4,500SGD or less and non-workers earning a monthly basic salary of $2,600SGD or less, retain the right to carry forward any unused annual leave to the next leave cycle of 12 months. 

However, there are no laws specifying that unused leave after the carry forward period must be encashed. Whether employees are allowed to encash their unused leave depends on their employer’s discretion. The employer has the right to decide whether to offer leave encashment and under what conditions (e.g. a minimum number of unused days). 

In situations where the accumulated unused annual leave surpasses the statutory entitlements, employees are recommended to consult their employment contract to understand the company’s protocol for handling such leave. This might involve choices such as encashment, carry-forward to the following year, or forfeiture.

For employees that are not covered under Part IV, such as managers, executives or professionals with higher salaries, the employment contract serves as the primary resource to determine eligibility and procedures regarding the carry-forward or encashment of annual leave. Some contracts permit carry-forward with specific limits, while others might provide options for encashment or forfeiting unused leave. 

What Happens if Annual Leave is Used Up?

In the case where employees have exhausted their accrued annual leave, they have the option to request for unpaid leave, also known as no-pay leave. This arrangement allows employees to take time off without pay, but approval for such Singapore leave is entirely at the employer’s discretion.

HR professionals must carefully consider the implications of approving unpaid leave, as it directly affects Singapore payroll processing and budgeting.  

Can Employers Refuse or Force Annual Leave?

As stated in the Employment Act, employers are not permitted to refuse employees’ requests for annual leave. Nevertheless, should the employee’s requested leave period clash with the company’s operational requirements, the employer reserves the right to propose an alternative date for the employee to utilize their leave. 

Similarly, employers are prohibited from compelling employees to utilize their annual leave. Employees have the right to use their annual leave days at a time convenient for them, and it is not within the employer’s jurisdiction to dictate when they should take their leave. 

Challenges in Managing Singapore Annual Leave

Managing Singapore leave effectively poses various challenges for HR professionals. Here are some of the common challenges faced: 

Manual processes

Many organizations still rely on paper-based systems or spreadsheets for employee time off requests and approvals. This can lead to inefficiencies, errors, and delays in processing leave requests and updating records. Manual processes are also prone to human error, making it difficult to maintain accurate and up-to-date leave records. 

Take your manual leave processes to the next level:

Compliance complexities

Compliance with labor laws, Singapore employment passes, and regulations regarding Singapore leave can be complex, especially in jurisdictions with stringent requirements or where laws are frequently updated. HR professionals need to stay informed about legal requirements related to annual leave requirements, carryover limits, and payment for unused leave upon employee’s departure. Failure to comply with these requirements can expose organizations to legal risks and financial penalties. 

Data accuracy

Accurate tracking of annual leave balances and usage is pivotal for ensuring that employees receive their entitled Singapore leave and that payroll calculations are correct. However, maintaining data accuracy can be tricky, especially when using manual systems or disparate processes that are not integrated. Inaccurate leave records can cause disputes between employees and employers and may even result in legal or financial repercussions.

Lack of transparency

Last but definitely not least, employees may face challenges in accessing information about their annual leave entitlements, remaining balances, and the status of their leave requests. A lack of transparency in the leave management process can lead to employee frustration, confusion and mistrust, causing employee engagement and morale to drop. HR professionals need to ensure that Singapore leave policies and procedures are clearly stated and communicated to employees and provide access to accurate and timely information about their leave entitlements.

Strategies to Effectively Manage Singapore Leave

Managing annual leave in Singapore effectively requires organization, awareness and clear communication. Here’s some strategies to mastering Singapore leave management: 

Develop a record keeping process

Developing a record keeping process for tracking employee annual leave is pivotal. This system should include employee details, leave requests, taken leaves, balances, and any supporting documents, all while adhering to data privacy regulations. 

Using a cloud-based HRIS system is recommended as it automates the process, freeing HR professionals of administrative burdens and reducing the likelihood of manual errors.

Stay up to date with local regulations

To stay up to date with changing regulations, HR professionals should subscribe to Ministry of Manpower updates for timely notifications regarding changes in leave entitlements, regulations, and penalties.

Additionally, joining associations or forums can provide valuable insights into industry best practices and legal interpretations, aiding in staying current with local regulations. Regular audits should also be conducted to ensure company policies and practices comply with current regulations. 

Clearly communicate leave policies

Another key to managing Singapore leave involves creating a detailed leave policy document that clearly outlines entitlements, types of leaves, procedures, and blackout periods in a concise manner. Once the document is prepared, it should be published online or distributed in hard copy, and made easily accessible to all employees.

Moreover, the policy should be explained during onboarding, with Q&A sessions held to address any queries. Changes or updates to the policy should be communicated through email or newsletters in a timely manner. Finally, translating the documents into different languages is important for inclusivity and to cater to a diverse workforce where applicable. 

Not sure what to include in your employee handbook for onboarding?

Leverage automation and HR tools

As mentioned above, leveraging automation with HR tools can simplify the management of Singapore leave. These HR tools are designed to automate request approvals, track balances, and generate reports for efficient leave management. With these features, analyzing leave trends and identifying areas for improvement in policy or resource allocation is simplified.

Additionally, some HRIS softwares provide employee self-service portals, enabling employees to manage their leave directly, thus reducing administrative burden and empowering employees to take advantage of their benefits. Similarly, HR software with e-signature features facilitate online approvals, reducing paperwork and streamlining the process.  

Singapore annual leave

Effortless Singapore Annual Leave Management with Omni

Addressing these Singapore leave challenges requires HR professionals to invest in modern leave management systems and processes. 

Omni’s time off management capabilities help managers and HR teams swiftly navigate employee leave management. Omni’s platform allows you to approve leave applications on the go and keep track of who’s in and out of the office with at-a-glance scheduling. 

Our employee self-service portal enables employees to submit their time off requests, which are automatically routed to the appropriate manager thanks to customizable approval workflows. Our user-friendly mobile application further simplifies the process, allowing employees to apply for time off requests on the go. 

For further leave management ease, Omni seamlessly integrates with common work tools such as Slack, enabling managers to manage time off approvals with a simple push of a button. With automated calculations, employees and managers can easily view leave balances in real-time, and track how many vacation days they have left without having to go through HR.

Our localized solutions and inter-connected system merges your Singapore leave management efforts with payroll processing, facilitating automatic, accurate calculations and compliance with local regulations for various regions. 

If you’re ready to take your leave management to the next level,

We’ll walk you through our platform’s capabilities and demonstrate how Omni can transform your leave management processes, saving you time, reducing administrative burdens, and enhancing overall efficiency.

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