NTUC calls for Budget support for freelancers to go for training without employer sponsorship

SINGAPORE – The labour movement has called on the Government to provide support in the upcoming Budget for freelancers who want to invest in upgrading their skills.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay suggested extending absentee payroll funding to freelancers and self-employed people so as to encourage more of them to come forward for training.

Absentee payroll funding is a government grant to offset the manpower costs incurred by employers when they send staff for certifiable skills training during working hours.

Mr Tay said in a Facebook post on Friday (Feb 14) that freelancers and self-employed people may be unable to get course fee funding as they do not have an employer to sponsor them.

He suggested reinstating the Surrogate Employer Programme, which NTUC worked with the Government to administer from 2001 to around 2011. The programme gave union members absentee payroll and course fee funding if they were keen to upgrade their skills without the support of their employers. NTUC functioned as a surrogate employer to them.

“NTUC Singapore stands ready to partner the Government to administer the scheme so that our growing pool of self-employed and freelancers can also have access to training assistance and incentives,” he said.

The Budget will be announced on Feb 18.

Mr Tay also suggested further enhancing the absentee payroll and course fee funding for companies in general.

“(This is) so that on one hand, companies can have greater support as they invest in their workers, and our workers can stay engaged, empowered, employed and employable in this uncertain economic landscape,” he said.

Mr Tay also noted that some workers are worried that their jobs may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. “In these times, we urge companies to take reference from the tripartite guidelines on managing excess manpower and cut costs to save jobs instead of cutting jobs to save costs,” he said.

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