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Present owners of Twelve Cupcakes fined S$119,500 for underpaying 7 foreign employees

The Independent logo The Independent 12/1/2021 Hana O
a store inside of a building © The Independent Singapore

Singapore — The present owners of the Twelve Cupcakes chain were fined S$119,500 on Tuesday (Jan 12) for underpaying seven foreign employees by about S$114,000.

This went on for more than two years and it is reported that it would have continued had it not been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

The cupcake chain was founded in 2011 by former DJ Daniel Ong and former model Jaime Teo. Its 17 outlets in Singapore were purchased by India-based tea company Dhunseri Group for S$2.5 million in 2016.

In December 2020, Dhunseri Group pleaded guilty to 15 charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, according to channelnewsasia.com.

The offences involving underpaying employees were carried out between December  2016 and November 2018 under the new management. Seven foreign employees had been promised fixed salaries between S$2,200 and S$2,600 but were paid between S$200 and S$1,200 less than the agreed amount.

The affected employees included sales executives, customer service executives and a pastry chef who were issued S-Passes to work for the company, the report noted.

It was also reported by straitstimes.com that some workers did not receive any income at certain periods between 2012 and 2013.

The Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012 states that employers are required to pay a foreign employee not less than the amount declared as the fixed monthly salary in the work pass application submitted to the controller in relation to the foreign employee.

The Act also specifies that “such payment must be made not later than seven days after the end of each salary periods, which shall be agreed between the employer and the employee and which in no case shall exceed one month”.

In an attempt to conceal their actions, management credited the agreed salaries to the employee’s accounts, then asked them to return the difference to avoid a paper trail, according to CNA.

The MOM received information on the contravention of labour laws and began investigations in December 2018.

MOM prosecutor Maximilian Chew sought a fine of S$127,000, noting the offences were challenging to detect given they occurred over a two-year period. If MOM had not received the information, the company would have most likely continued the offences, Mr Chew added.

In its defence, Dhunseri Group said it was only implementing practices initially established by the previous management.

The allegations led to Ong and his then wife Teo being charged in December 2020 with  similar offences a few weeks after a representative of the cupcake chain pleaded guilty.

Ong and Teo are each facing 24 charges. Their cases are pending, although the court heard that Teo intends to plead guilty on Jan 26.

For each charge under the Act, an offender can be imprisoned for up to one year, fined up to S$10,000 or both. /TISG

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