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S’pore company sues engineer who quit after getting bonus, court orders him to give bonus back - Mothership.SG


S’pore company sues engineer who quit after getting bonus, court orders him to give bonus back - Mothership.SG

If you're considering quitting after receiving your supposedly hard earned bonus for the past year, think twice — or at least double-check your contract.
A man in Singapore resigned after receiving his bonus, but was ordered by a Magistrate's Court to return the money to his company.

Received bonus day after resigning​

According to a judgment published on Apr. 19, 2023, Quantum Technologies Global Pte Ltd employed Sia Chien Kian as a Quality Systems Engineer on Dec. 21, 2020, with a starting salary of S$4,500.
He tendered his resignation on Mar. 25, 2022, and started to serve his contractual notice period of two months.
However, the company had already processed payment of his variable incentive two days earlier, on Mar. 23, and he received it in his bank account on Mar. 26.
Besides the S$7,200 cash he received, the company paid S$1,224 to his Central Provident Fund (CPF) account.
The company asked Sia to return the monies, but he refused.
It eventually sued him in court.

"Employee Handbook"​

During the trial, the company claimed that Sia was not eligible for the variable incentive and had made the payment because he only tendered his resignation after the payment was being processed, and it was too late to reverse the transaction.
It explained that a clause in the company's "Employee Handbook" states:
"Generally, employees are not eligible for pay-out of variable incentive if... the employee is serving his/ her notice period on the date/ month that any of the incentives is declared and/ or paid."

Engineer said clause not in employment contract​

Sia denied the claims and stated that he was unaware of the clause as it was not stated in his employment contract.
He further argued that the clause did not allow the company to claw back the variable incentive it had already paid out.
However, the company refuted this by stating that another clause in his contract read:
"You will enjoy such benefits and be subject to such further terms as laid down in the prevailing Employee Handbook or elsewhere and the Company expressly reserves, subject to the exclusive right and sole discretion to change such benefits and terms at any time hereafter. …"

Judge said engineer knew handbook exists and not "blindsided"​

Explaining his decision, the district judge said he agreed with the company that the employee handbook was part of the contract.
The judge explained that Sia was not "blindsided" by the company as he knew about the existence of the handbook and that he admitted in the trial that a human resource staff had explained the clause to him when he signed the contract.
When Sia was confirmed as a permanent employee, he received an email informing him that he was "eligible for the benefits indicated in the prevailing Employee Handbook".

Handbook also spelt out other benefits​

Sia had also claimed that only certain parts of the handbook applied to him.
He also argued that it "did not occur to him" that the handbook would spell out terms on bonuses, as his contract already stated that there were two bonuses to be paid out, one in December and the other in March.
The judge disagreed and explained:
In my view, the defendant cannot cherry-pick contractual provisions, adopting what is favourable (such as eligibility for annual leave and bonuses), while discarding what is not favourable to him (such as the conditions on which bonuses are to be paid).

"Service Retention Period" clause​

However, the judge felt that the company had claimed against Sia using the wrong clause in the contract, as it did not expressly entitle it to a "clawback payment".
The judge pointed to another clause which stated that employees had to serve a "service retention period" of at least one month, depending on the amount of bonus they received.
The clause states:
"Eligible employees who received the incentives (regardless of pay-out cycle) shall continue in their service (the "Service Retention Period") after the pay-out month to retain the incentive. If the employee resigns during the service retention period, the Company reserves the right to recover the full paid sum of incentive/s (including applicable statutory contributions e.g. CPF) from the employee.
(i) If incentive paid out is less than or equal to two (2) months of salary, service retention period of one (1) month applies.
(ii) If incentive paid out is more than two (2) months of salary, service retention period of two (2) months applies."
He then directed the company to amend its pleadings and allowed Sia to amend his defence.
The judge explained that even though the company had overlooked the clause in their claim, the main argument would be the same — that Sia had quit on the same month he received the bonus.
Based on this understanding, Sia could have kept his bonus had he stayed employed in the company a few more weeks.

Engineer claimed he didn't know handbook changed​

After the amendments, during the second stage of the trial, Sia argued that the "Service Retention Period" clause was only introduced to the Handbook on Feb. 11, 2022, and that he never acknowledged or agreed to it.
The company then rebutted that it had emailed employees to notify them of the changes.
It also argued that the bonus was "discretionary in nature"; therefore, it was up to the company to decide how it's paid out.
The company's HR consultant testified that Sia was deemed eligible for the bonus when it was processed, but later on was no longer eligible to receive or retain it.
The judge agreed that the new clause is enforceable and entitles the company to a "clawback payment".
He allowed the company's claim but stated that in a future hearing to decide on legal fees, he would consider that the company had initially based their claim on the wrong clause.
Top image via Google Maps


Why his bonus so little one? Only 8k+ and have to go to court and so many hassle. Just return it lah.

It is not like it's 800k. Understand very wasted have to return, but also must return lah. But 8k only have to go to court.. Wah Lou.


Alfrescian (Inf)
This type of kucing kurap SME is so stingy over a paltry sum of $7200. End up cannot even cover the lawyer's fees.


bonus paid for work he has done past years and that also want to take back...

the worse is ....

Scrooball (clone)

In house lawyer lah, must make them slog.

Sme boss probably live in big house, the 8k will be used to upgrade sports rims on his 2nd Merc.
Lol in house lawyer? U think this kind of lanjiao SG SME company got an in house lawyer? I suspect they don’t even have an in house accountant. Maybe farm it out to some freelancer.


Now everyone will avoid

Quantum Technologies Global Pte Ltd

like the plague. Reclaiming bonuses are petty and is just the tip of the abusive iceberg. Clearly a shitty company.


Alfrescian (Inf)
Lol in house lawyer? U think this kind of lanjiao SG SME company got an in house lawyer? I suspect they don’t even have an in house accountant. Maybe farm it out to some freelancer.
some hire auditors and attorneys based on annual retainer’s fee, i.e. like part time contract work with basic charges plus add ons depending on case loads. they are not full time employees of the sme. if “basic” covers suing employees for bonus payback, then it’s worth the annual fee. some sme towkays like to squeeze these professional retainers dry to sexact and sextract every penny spent. it’s sumtimes better and more worthwhile to hire attorneys and auditors or accountants on retainer basis if family or biz has ongoing issues with inheritance and or proceeds from biz with sizable fortunes affording the cost. the overall cost will be lower compared to a case by case nickel and dime legal or accounting professional. my family hires a lawyer case by case, and she’s nickeling and diming us to hundreds of thousands with progressive rates after eyeing the total sum. every call, meeting, document, consultation she charges thousands of dollars. my recommendation for family and biz with means is to retain a lawyer based on a pre-negotiated rate and contract to cover as many items and contingencies as possible without additional charges within the period of a year. it’s like fixed rate with cap for 1 year compared to variable rates on per case basis. if retainer contract needs another year, be prepared for lawyer to increase charges by 69%. they are greedy money grabbing scums.
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