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Employee misclassification: What employers in Asia need to know.

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Employee misclassification typically occurs when an employer incorrectly identifies an employee as an independent contractor or freelancer. This can have significant legal, financial, and operational implications for both the employer and the misclassified worker.

The following article provides a comprehensive exploration of the importance of employee classification, various employee classification types, and ways to prevent employee misclassification in Asia. By learning more about these critical aspects, employers can better understand the nuances of worker categorisation, mitigate potential risks, and ensure compliance with regional labour laws and regulations.

Key takeaways

  • Properly classifying employees ensures compliance with labour laws and regulations and protects employees’ rights while securing their benefits and protections.
  • Employers in Asia typically classify their workers into two categories: employees and independent contractors. However, there are different subcategories of employees and independent contractors that employers must be aware of.
  • With the ever-changing landscape of labour laws and regulations in Asia, it’s essential for employers to regularly review and update employee classifications. This will help to prevent any legal or financial repercussions for misclassification.

The significance of employee classification

Employee classification is a critical aspect of any business operation in Asia. Proper employee classification is essential to comply with labour laws and to protect employees’ rights while securing the benefits and protections they are entitled to. Additionally, proper classification helps employers determine the appropriate payroll taxes, insurance premiums, and benefits that they must pay.

Failure to comply with these laws can result in significant financial penalties, legal action, and reputational damage. Employers who are found to have misclassified their employees may be seen as unethical or untrustworthy, which can damage their relationships with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

The different types of employee classification in Asia

The following are the employee classifications commonly used in Asia:

Full-time vs part-time employees

In Asia, full-time employees are those who work a regular schedule, typically between 35 to 48 hours per week. They are entitled to benefits such as paid time off, health insurance, and retirement plans. Part-time employees, on the other hand, work fewer hours per week, and their employment status is often temporary. They also may not be entitled to the same benefits as full-time employees, depending on the legislation in their country.

Exempt vs non-exempt employees

Exempt employees are employees who are not entitled to overtime pay. They are typically paid a salary rather than an hourly wage and expected to work beyond the standard workweek without receiving additional pay. In Asia, the criteria for exempt employees vary by country. For example, in Singapore, exempt employees must earn a minimum salary of SGD 2,500 per month and perform managerial, executive, or professional duties. Non-exempt employees, on the other hand, are entitled to overtime pay when they work beyond the standard workweek.

Permanent vs temporary employees

In Asia, permanent employees are those who are hired for an indefinite period, with no end date specified in their employment contract. They are entitled to benefits such as paid time off, health insurance, and retirement plans. Temporary employees, however, are hired for a specific period, often to cover a seasonal or temporary need. These employees may not be entitled to the same benefits as permanent employees.

Independent contractors

Independent contractors are workers who are self-employed and provide services to a company on a contract basis. They are not considered employees and therefore are not entitled to benefits such as paid time off, health insurance, or retirement plans. However, they may be entitled to certain protections under local laws, such as the right to receive payment for their services and protection against discrimination.

Freelancers, consultants, or vendors

Freelancers, consultants, and vendors are often classified as independent contractors, but there are some key differences. Freelancers are self-employed individuals who provide services to multiple clients, while consultants are typically hired to provide advice or expertise on a specific project. Vendors, on the other hand, provide goods or services to a company on a regular basis. Like independent contractors, these workers are not entitled to benefits such as paid time off, health insurance, or retirement plans.

How can employee misclassification be avoided?

As it was mentioned above, employee misclassification can result in serious consequences for employers in Asia, including legal liabilities, financial penalties, and reputational damage. To avoid these risks, employers need to take proactive steps to ensure that their workers are classified correctly. In this regard, there are several key considerations for employers to avoid worker misclassification and ensure compliance with local labour laws and regulations.

Key considerations for employers in Asia

Local labour laws

It is crucial for employers to familiarise themselves with the labour laws of each country they operate in within Asia. Labour laws can vary significantly from one country to another, so understanding the specific regulations governing employee classification is essential.

Employee benefits

Employers should provide the necessary benefits and entitlements to employees as mandated by local labour laws. Failure to do so can lead to misclassification claims.

Employment contracts

Clear and well-drafted employment contracts can help mitigate misclassification risks. Contracts should accurately reflect the worker’s status, responsibilities, and the nature of the working relationship.

Periodic audits

Regularly reviewing worker classifications and ensuring compliance with local laws can prevent misclassification issues from arising or escalating.

Legal advice

Given the complexity of labour laws in Asia, seeking legal advice is advisable. Legal experts or HR professionals can provide guidance on proper worker classification and help employers navigate the legal landscape.

How Acclime can help

Proper employee classification can be a complex issue for employers in Asia, especially for those who just start expanding their operations into new countries. This is where Acclime, a leading business service provider, can help. Acclime offers Employer of Record (EoR) services, which can help companies comply with local labour laws and regulations while also providing a streamlined and cost-effective solution for managing their workforce.

With Acclime’s EoR services, employers can avoid the risks of employee misclassification and focus on growing their business. Our team of experts can provide guidance on employment contracts, compliance with local laws, and other HR-related matters, giving employers peace of mind and allowing them to focus on their core business operations. Contact Acclime today to learn more about EoR services and how they can help your business thrive in Asia.


About Acclime.

Acclime provides businesses with corporate, governance, and advisory services. It operates in 14 countries, employing over 1,400 dedicated professionals. The firm provides a comprehensive range of professional services and business advisory to help businesses navigate complex regulatory environments and achieve their goals at all stages of the business life-cycle.

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