Hiring Remote Employees for Singapore Businesses: Best Guide

hire remote employees

What is Remote Working?

With Covid-19, remote working has largely become the de-facto arrangement of work for most professional service companies. Remote working has seen companies hire employees who live outside of Singapore, even. For Singapore businesses who are hiring remote employees (whether such workers are based in Singapore, or from overseas) there are 3 important points to consider.

This guide on hiring remote workers will cover:

  1. What are the benefits of hiring remote employees?
  2. How to hire remote employees
  3. Guidelines on employment conditions for remote employees
  4. Protecting remote employees and your business

What are the benefits of hiring remote employees?

Remote employees offer Singapore businesses some key benefits. These include:

#1. Attracting new employees, and retaining existing ones:

Offering employees flexible work-from-home arrangements certainly increases your attractiveness as an employer. Travelling to and from the office every day takes up a fair amount of time. For instance, let’s say your travelling time is at least 45 minutes to and from the office. If you don’t have to go to the office for work, that would save you 1.5 hours each day. And when you don’t have to leave home, you tend to feel more fresh and energized.

Allowing employees remote working improves their work-life balance. This can help to increase productivity. Happier employees make better employees, generally. Employees with children or elderly relatives to look after will be better able to juggle work and family commitments. Your employees with such commitments will surely appreciate the opportunity to earn a living, while having the ability to take care of their family.

#2. Expand your talent pool:

By hiring remotely, you don’t have to limit yourself to employees in Singapore only. You can tap into a global talent pool. For instance, you could hire remote software engineers in the US, China, Vietnam, or Europe. These areas have large amounts of top-tier software engineering talent that you can leverage for your business. China and Vietnam, in particular, have large quantities of affordable yet highly competent engineering talent.

You can use remote employees to help you with many different aspects of your business. You could engage freelance writers to manage your content marketing efforts. You could hire remote marketing managers to help you run your social media pages, and to grow your business leads.

#3. Save money on expensive office rents:

Office rentals in Singapore aren’t cheap. A 10-seat office in the CBD will easily set you back $5,000 to $10,000 a month. Popular like Paya Lebar are also not hugely affordable – the going rate for a 10-seat office is around $4,000 to $7,000. By hiring remote employees, you remove this large overhead from your monthly expenses. You can use these savings to invest in other areas, like marketing, which will help you grow your business more quickly.

Process of Hiring Remote Employees

There aren’t substantial differences in hiring remote employees versus hiring other employees.

You’ll go through the same hiring processes that you’ve used for your other employees. A typical hiring process might look something like the following:

  1. Resume screening
  2. 1st round interview with HR/Hiring Manager
  3. 2nd round interview with Manager, Director, and other members of the team
  4. Sign employment contract
  5. Go through employee onboarding process
  6. Start work

When hiring remote employees who live in Singapore, it’s advisable to meet them in-person at least once or twice before you make the decision to bring them onboard. This helps you to get a better feel of the person, the nuances of which might be lost over a video or phone call.

Where to hire remote employees:

The easiest way to hire employees is through online platforms. Here’s a handy list to use:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Monster
  3. Jobstreet
  4. Glints (great for interns)
  5. Gumtree
  6. Indeed

Do remote employees require employment contracts? What should these contracts include?

Yes. You should have an employment contract for remote employees. An employment contract (alternately known as a “contract of service”) is a legal document that specifies the terms of the employer-employee relationship.

Under Singapore law, employment contracts must contain specific Key Employment Terms (KETs). Some of these KETs include:

  • Employee’s job title
  • Main duties and responsibilities
  • Basic salary and bonuses
  • Daily working hours
  • Amount of leave

It’s important for you to sign an employment contract with your remote employees. An employment contract helps to pin down, in black and white, the specific terms of the professional relationship you have with your workers. This will minimise the possibility of disputes later on, whether those disputes concern compensation, work hours, or other grey areas.

What law will govern my employment contact with remote employees?    

The governing law of your employment contract will state which country’s laws will apply when interpreting the contract terms. Selecting a country’s laws will depend on whether you’re hiring remote employees who are based in Singapore, or overseas.

Remote employees based in Singapore:

If your remote worker is based locally, then Singapore law will be the governing law. The Singapore courts shall have jurisdiction over the terms of your contract. This is no different from hiring any other employee.

Remote employees based overseas:

You will have to mutually agree with your remote employee on which country’s law should apply. In order to reduce complications, it’s probably best to try to convince the other party to adopt Singapore law. You don’t want to go through the hassle of having to hire a lawyer who’s familiar with some overseas set of laws, just to settle an employment dispute.

Employment contracts with overseas remote workers should not violate local laws

You should note that even if the contract states that Singapore law shall govern the employment contract, the contract terms still should not infringe upon the local laws of the country that the employee lives in. For instance, if you’re hiring a worker based in the UK, your contract shouldn’t run counter to UK employment standards. An example of a UK employment right is that all UK employees are entitled to a minimum wage of GBP 8.91/hour, which is equivalent to about SGD 16.55/hour (correct as of June 2021). You must therefore pay your remote UK employees at least this minimum wage, or else your employment would be considered illegal. It’s a good idea to familarise yourself with the basics of local labour laws if you’re hiring foreign employees.

Some other useful examples of local labour regulations in other countries:

Malaysia: Maximum 8 working hours per day, 6 days a week; minimum wage of approx. SGD1.56/hour

Vietnam: Maximum 8 working hours per day; minimum wage of approx. SGD178 to SGD 257/month

USA: Federal minimum wage of approx. SGD9.75/hour; states may have higher minimum wages (e.g. Massachusetts minimum wage is approx. SGD18.15/hour)

Do remote employees, who are foreigners, need to apply for a Work Pass?

This depends on whether your remote employee is based in or outside of Singapore.

If your foreign remote employee is based in Singapore:

You must apply for a Work Pass for foreign remote employees, if they’re living here. It is the same process just like hiring a regular employee.

If your foreign remote employee is not based in Singapore:

You don’t need to apply for a Work Pass for foreign remote employees, as long as they are not based in Singapore.

Are there guidelines on working conditions that I should provide for my remote employees?

Yes. The “Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements” sets out guidelines that employers should adhere to when hiring remote workers. Adherence is not mandatory, but familiarising yourself with the standards is a good idea to build a more conducive workplace.

Some examples of the standards include:

  • A member of senior management should be designated to lead flexible work arrangement efforts.
  • Outcomes of flexible work arrangement applications are documented. If an application is rejected, employees should be provided a reason for the rejection, and alternative arrangements should be discussed.
  • Employers are recommended to inform their employees on any available flexible work arrangements that the company has. Employers should brief their employees on the specifics of their work-from-home schemes (if any), and how employees can apply to work from home.

Protecting your remote employees

Hiring remote employees can help to supercharge your business’ growth. You can save on rental expenses. You can also choose to hire remote employees on a freelance basis, which lowers your costs. However, don’t skimp on protecting your remote employees. Under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA), employers are responsible for compensating all employees for work-related injuries/illnesses. If your remote employees who are based in Singapore get injured or sick due to work (including getting Covid-19), you are legally responsible for paying their medical expenses! With Work Injury Compensation Insurance, you’ll be protected against these costs. Work Injury Insurance will pay for your employees’ work-related medical bills, including Covid-19 infections.

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