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Employment of Foreign Workers Act
(CHAPTER 91A)

(Original Enactment: Act 21 of 1990)

REVISED EDITION 1997
(20th December 1997)
An Act relating to the employment of foreign workers.
[1st January 1991]
Short title
1.  This Act may be cited as the Employment of Foreign Workers Act.
Interpretation
2.  In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires —
“Controller” means the Controller of Work Permits appointed under section 3;
“construction works” has the same meaning as in the Construction Industry Development Board Act (Cap. 51) and includes such other works or activities as the Minister may, by notification in the Gazette, specify to be construction works;
“employer” means any person employing a foreign worker and, for the purposes of an application for work permit, any person who intends to employ a foreign worker;
“employment inspector” means the Controller and any person appointed as an employment inspector under section 3;
“foreigner” means any person who is not a citizen or permanent resident of Singapore;
“foreign worker” means —
(a)
any person who is not a citizen of Singapore who seeks employment with, or is offered employment by, an employer at a salary of not more than $1,500 a month or such other sum as may, from time to time, be fixed by the Minister by notification in the Gazette; or
(b)
such other person or class of persons as the Minister may, by notification in the Gazette, specify.
“levy” means the levy imposed under section 11;
“occupier”, in relation to any premises, includes —
(a)
the person having the charge, management or control of either the whole or part of the premises either on his own account or as an agent; and
(b)
any person who is carrying out construction or other works at the premises on behalf of some other person;
“premises” includes any land, whether built on or not, building, structure and any vessel and vehicle;
“salary” means all monetary remuneration payable to a foreign worker but does not include the following:
(a)
additional payment by way of overtime, bonus or commission;
(b)
travelling, food or housing allowances;
(c)
any sum paid to a foreign worker to defray special expenses incurred by him owing to the special, unusual or hazardous nature of his employment;
(d)
any shift allowance, attendance allowance and any other allowance which is variable in nature;
(e)
any contribution paid by the employer to any pension fund or provident fund; or
(f)
any gratuity payable on discharge or retirement;
“work permit” means a work permit issued under section 7.
[37/95]
Appointment of Controller of Work Permits and employment inspectors
3.
—(1)  The Minister may appoint a Controller of Work Permits who shall have such functions and powers as are conferred on him by this Act .
(1A)  The Deputy Controllers of Work Permits and the Assistant Controllers of Work Permits shall have and may exercise and perform all the powers, duties and functions of the Controller conferred by this Act, subject to such limitations as the Controller may think fit to impose.
(2)  The Minister may appoint such number of employment inspectors as he may think fit for carrying out the purposes of this Act.
Exemption
4.  The Minister may, by notification in the Gazette, exempt any person or class of persons from all or any of the provisions of this Act.
Prohibition of employment of foreign worker without work permit
5.
—(1)  No person shall employ a foreign worker unless he has obtained in respect of the foreign worker a valid work permit which allows the foreign worker to work for him.
(2)  No foreign worker shall be in the employment of an employer without a valid work permit.
(3)  No person shall employ a foreign worker otherwise than in accordance with the conditions of the work permit.
(4)  In any proceedings for an offence under subsection (1), it shall not be a defence for a defendant to prove that he did not know that the worker was a foreigner unless the defendant further proves that he had exercised due diligence to ascertain the nationality of the worker .
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(5)  For the purpose of subsection (4), a defendant shall not be deemed to have exercised due diligence unless he had checked the passport, document of identity or other travel document of the worker.
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(6)  Any person who fails to comply with or contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall —
(a)
be liable on conviction to a fine of an amount of not less than 24 months’ levy and not more than 48 months’ levy or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both; and
(b)
on a second or subsequent conviction, be punished —
(i)
in the case of an individual, with imprisonment for a term of not less than one month and not more than 12 months and shall also be liable to a fine of an amount of not less than 24 months’ levy and not more than 48 months’ levy; and
(ii)
in the case of a body corporate, with a fine of an amount of not less than 48 months’ levy and not more than 96 months’ levy.
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(7)  Any person who contravenes subsection (2) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
(8)  For the purpose of this section —
(a)
“employ” means to engage or use the service of any person, whether under a contract of service or otherwise, with or without salary;
(b)
“levy” means the monthly rate of levy applicable to the foreign worker at the date when he was first employed by the defendant without a valid work permit, and a certificate issued by the Controller and tendered in court shall be prima facie evidence of such rate;
(c)
a conviction of an employer for an offence under section 8(1) of the repealed Regulation of Employment Act (Cap. 272) shall not be considered a previous conviction; and
(d)
all convictions against the same person for the contravention of subsection (1) at one and the same trial shall be deemed to be one conviction.
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Presumption of employment
6.  Where a foreigner is found at any premises, the occupier of the premises shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, to have employed the foreigner.
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Prohibition of foreigner without work permit entering or remaining at work place
6A.
—(1)  No occupier of a work place who has control of access to the work place shall permit any foreigner without a valid work permit to enter or remain at the work place.
[37/95]
(2)  Where a foreigner without a valid work permit is found at any work place, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that the occupier of the work place —
(a)
had control of access to the work place;
(b)
had permitted the foreigner to enter or remain at the work place; and
(c)
had knowledge that the foreigner did not possess a valid work permit.
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(3)  The presumptions provided for in subsection (2) shall not be rebutted by proof that a defendant did not know that the person was a foreigner unless the defendant further proves that he had exercised due diligence —
(a)
to prevent the foreigner from entering or remaining at the work place;
(b)
to ascertain that the person was a citizen or permanent resident of Singapore by checking his passport, document of identity or other travel documents; or
(c)
to ascertain that the foreigner had at the material time in his possession a valid work permit by checking his original work permit .
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(4)  For the purposes of subsection (3)(a), a defendant shall not be deemed to have exercised due diligence unless he had taken all reasonable measures to prevent any foreigner without a valid work permit from entering or remaining at the work place, including all the measures prescribed under subsection (5) in respect of the work place.
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(5)  For the purposes of subsection (4), the Minister may, by notification in the Gazette, prescribe the measures that are required to be taken by the occupier of the work place.
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(6)  Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable —
(a)
on conviction to a fine of an amount of not less than 24 months’ levy and not more than 48 months’ levy or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both; and
(b)
on a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine of an amount of not less than 48 months’ levy and not more than 96 months’ levy or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both.
(7)  For the purpose of this section —
“levy” means the monthly rate of levy applicable to unskilled foreign workers working at the work place at the date when the foreigner without a valid work permit was found at the work place, and a certificate issued by the Controller and tendered in court shall be prima facie evidence of such rate;
“occupier”, in relation to a work place, means the principal contractor who undertakes any construction works at the work place and includes such other person as the Minister may, by notification in the Gazette, specify to be the occupier of the work place;
“principal contractor” means a person who has entered into a contract with an owner, a developer or a lessee of a property or his agent for the purpose of carrying out any construction works, or such other works or activities as the Minister may, by notification in the Gazette, specify;
“work place” means any place or premises where works are being carried out and includes any premises within the vicinity of the work place to which the occupier has control of access.
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(8)  Nothing in this section shall prevent any person from being prosecuted under any other provision of this Act for any act or omission which constitutes an offence under that other provision, but no person shall be punished twice for the same offence.
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Application for work permit
7.
—(1)  Any person who wishes to employ a foreign worker shall apply to the Controller for a work permit for the foreign worker.
(2)  Upon receiving an application under subsection (1), the Controller shall consider the application and may issue a work permit in the name of the foreign worker with or without conditions or refuse to issue a work permit.
(3)  The Controller may at any time —
(a)
vary or revoke any of the existing conditions of a work permit or impose new conditions; or
(b)
vary, suspend or cancel a work permit.
(4)  Any person who is aggrieved by a decision of the Controller under subsection (2) or (3) may appeal to the Minister whose decision shall be final and shall not be called in question in any court.
Register of foreign workers to be kept by employer
8.
—(1)  An employer shall keep a register of foreign workers to whom work permits have been issued under section 7.
(2)  The register shall be in such form and shall contain such particulars as the Controller may determine.
(3)  The register shall, at all reasonable times, be open to inspection by an employment inspector.
Termination of employment of foreign workers
9.
—(1)  Where the Controller has decided to suspend or cancel the work permit of a foreign worker pursuant to section 7(3), the Controller shall notify the employer of the foreign worker of his decision and the employer of the foreign worker shall, within 7 days of receiving the notification, terminate the services of the foreign worker.
(2)  Every employer who terminates the services of a foreign worker under subsection (1) shall return the work permit to the Controller within 7 days of such termination.
(3)  An employer who fails to comply with subsection (1) or (2) shall be guilty of an offence.
(4)  The termination of the services of a foreign worker under subsection (1) shall not be —
(a)
capable of negotiation with a trade union representing the foreign worker;
(b)
a matter in respect of which any form of industrial action may be taken by any such trade union;
(c)
the subject-matter of a trade dispute or of conciliation proceedings or any method of redress whether or not under any written law; and
(d)
any industrial matter within the meaning of the Industrial Relations Act (Cap. 136).
(5)  Where in respect of the employment of any person there has been any contravention of subsection (1), that person shall not, by reason only of such contravention, be deemed to be employed under an illegal contract of employment.
Self-employed persons carrying on certain occupations to apply for work permits
10.
—(1)  The Minister may, from time to time by notification in the Gazette, prohibit any person, not being a citizen of Singapore and not being employed under a contract of service, from engaging in any trade, calling, occupation or other activity for the purposes of gain that is specified in the notification unless he has obtained a work permit for that purpose.
(2)  Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall —
(a)
be liable on conviction to a fine of an amount of not less than 24 months’ levy and not more than 48 months’ levy or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both; and
(b)
on a second or subsequent conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than one month and not more than 12 months and shall also be liable to a fine of an amount of not less than 24 months’ levy and not more than 48 months’ levy.
(3)  For the purpose of subsection (2) —
(a)
“levy” means the monthly rate of levy applicable to the person engaged in the trade, calling, occupation or other activity in contravention of subsection (1) at the date when he was found to be so engaged, and a certificate issued by the Controller and tendered in court shall be prima facie evidence of such rate; and
(b)
all convictions against the same person for the contravention of subsection (1) at one and the same trial shall be deemed to be one conviction.
[37/95]
Levy in respect of employment of certain classes of foreign workers or other persons
11.
—(1)  The Minister may, by order published in the Gazette, provide for the imposition of a levy of such amount as may be specified in the order on employers in respect of any foreign worker or class of foreign workers or on persons who have, pursuant to section 10(1), obtained a work permit to engage in any trade, calling, occupation or other activity for the purposes of gain.
(2)  The levy shall continue to be payable unless the work permit has been suspended or cancelled.
(3)  Any order made under subsection (1) may provide for the recovery of the levy in such manner and through such channels as may be specified in the order.
(4)  Where the amount of the levy payable by any employer or person in respect of any month is not paid within such period as may be specified in the order, the employer or person shall be liable to pay a penalty on the amount for every day the amount remains unpaid commencing from the first day of the month succeeding the month in respect of which the amount is payable.
(5)  The penalty under subsection (4) shall be calculated at the rate of 2% per month or the sum of $5 whichever is the greater, but, subject to that, the total penalty shall not exceed 30% of the amount of levy outstanding.
(6)  The Controller may, in any case in which he thinks fit, remit or refund in whole or in part any penalty due under subsection (4).
[37/95]
(7)  Any levy and penalty due from and payable by any employer or person shall be recoverable by the Controller, or any person duly authorised by the Controller to act on his behalf, as a debt due to the Government.
(8)  For the purposes of reimbursing any person authorised by the Controller to act on his behalf for the expenses incurred by him in the collection and recovery of the levy, the Minister may authorise the person to be paid such amount as the Minister may determine.
(9)  In any proceedings for the recovery of any levy and penalty due thereon which any employer or person is liable to pay, a certificate purporting to be under the hand of the Controller certifying the amount of the levy and penalty due thereon payable by the employer or person shall be prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.
Extent of validity of work permit
12.
—(1)  A work permit shall be valid only in respect of the trade or occupation and the employer and foreign worker specified therein.
(2)  A work permit shall be valid for the period specified in the work permit unless it is suspended or cancelled by the Controller.
Custody of work permit, etc.
13.
—(1)  A work permit shall not be transferable.
(2)  A foreign worker who is in possession of his work permit shall hand over the work permit to his employer on the last day of his employment with that employer who shall return the work permit to the Controller within 7 days of the date thereof.
(3)  Upon demand by an employment inspector, the work permit of a foreign worker shall be produced for inspection.
Loss, etc., of work permit
14.
—(1)  When a work permit has been lost, destroyed or defaced, the foreign worker or the employer or the self-employed person, as the case may be, shall report to the Controller within 7 days of such loss, destruction or defacement, and the Controller shall issue a duplicate work permit. on payment of the prescribed fee.
(2)  Where the foreign worker or the employer or the self-employed person recovers possession of the work permit after notifying the loss of the work permit, the foreign worker or the employer or the self-employed person, as the case may be —
(a)
may retain the work permit if no duplicate work permit has been issued by the Controller under subsection (1); or
(b)
shall forthwith return the work permit so recovered for cancellation if a duplicate work permit has been issued by the Controller under subsection (1).
(3)  A person who finds or comes into possession of a work permit other than his own shall forthwith deliver it to the Controller.
Onus of proof
15.  The onus of proving the truth of the contents of a written application for a work permit under sections 7 and 10 shall be on the person who makes the application.
Powers of employment inspector
16.
—(1)  An employment inspector shall, for the purposes of this Act, have power to do all or any of the following things:
(a)
to enter and search, by day or by night, any premises or part thereof when he has reasonable cause to believe that any person is employed therein or accommodated thereat or that evidence of the commission of an offence under this Act can be found therein;
(b)
to require any person who the employment inspector has reason to believe has any document, including documents of identity and travel documents, or information relevant to the carrying out of the provisions of this Act, to produce any such document or give such information;
(c)
to retain any document relevant to the carrying out of the provisions of this Act;
(d)
to examine orally any person supposed to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances relevant to the carrying out of the provisions of this Act, and to reduce into writing the answer given or statement made by that person who shall be bound to state truly the facts and circumstances with which he is acquainted; and the statement made by that person shall be read over to him and shall, after correction, be signed by him;
(e)
to require by order in writing the attendance before him of any person who, from information given or otherwise, appears to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances relevant to the carrying out of the provisions of this Act, and that person shall so attend as required and if he fails to attend as so required, to report such failure to a Magistrate who may thereupon issue a warrant to secure the attendance of that person as required by the order;
(f)
to take such photographs as he thinks necessary of the premises and persons reasonably believed to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances relevant to the carrying out of the provisions of this Act; and
(g)
to take in custody any article which is required for the purpose of an investigation under this Act.
[37/95]
(2)  An employment inspector may require the occupier of any premises and his agents and any person found in the premises to furnish such means required by the employment inspector as necessary for any entry, search, examination or investigation, and the taking of photographs or the taking of articles into custody or otherwise for the exercise of his powers under this Act.
[37/95]
(3)  An employment inspector may, after concluding his investigation, hand over to an immigration officer any travel document which he has taken into custody or has been produced to him.
(4)  If any person —
(a)
intentionally offers any resistance to or wilfully delays an employment inspector in the exercise of any power under this section;
(b)
fails to comply with the requisition of an employment inspector under this section;
(c)
fails to produce any document which he is required by or under this section to produce;
(d)
wilfully withholds any information as to who is the occupier of the premises or who is the principal contractor or who is his employer; or
(e)
conceals or prevents or attempts to conceal or prevent a person from appearing before or being examined by an employment inspector,
that person shall be deemed to obstruct an employment inspector in the execution of his duties under this Act.
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(5)  Every employment inspector shall have authority to appear in court and conduct any prosecution in respect of any offence under this Act or any regulations made thereunder.
Change of address
17.
—(1)  Every employer shall inform the Controller in writing of any change in his address within 14 days of such change.
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(2)  Where the employer is an individual, he shall be deemed to have complied with subsection (1) if he had reported the change of his place of residence under section 8 of the National Registration Act (Cap. 201).
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(3)  Where the employer is a body corporate incorporated under the Companies Act (Cap. 50) or a sole proprietorship or a firm registered under the Business Registration Act (Cap. 32), the employer shall be deemed to have complied with subsection (1) if he had reported the change of the address of the registered office or place of business under section 143 of the Companies Act (Cap. 50) or section 12 of the Business Registration Act (Cap. 32), as the case may be.
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(4)  The addresses as reported in subsection (2) or (3) shall, unless the employer informs the Controller in writing to the contrary, be deemed to be the last known address of the employer for the purpose of section 18.
[16A
[37/95]
Service of notices
18.
—(1)  Every notice, order or document required or authorised by this Act or any regulations made thereunder to be served on any person may be served —
(a)
by delivering it to the person or to some adult member or employee of his family at his last known place of residence;
(b)
by leaving it at his usual or last known place of residence or business in an envelope addressed to him; or
(c)
by sending it by ordinary or registered post addressed to the person at his usual or last known place of residence or business.
[37/95]
(2)  Where any notice, order or document is served by ordinary or registered post, it shall be deemed to have been duly served at the time it would have been received in the ordinary course of post if the notice, order or document is addressed —
(a)
in the case of a company incorporated in Singapore, to the registered office of the company;
(b)
in the case of a company incorporated outside Singapore, either to the individual authorised to accept service of process under the Companies Act at the address filed with the Registrar of Companies, or to the registered office of the company wherever it may be situated;
(c)
in the case of an individual, a partnership or a body of persons, to the last known business or private address of such individual, partnership or body of persons.
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(3)  Where any notice, order or document is served by registered post in accordance with subsection (2), in proving service of the notice, order or document, it shall be sufficient to prove that the envelope containing the same was properly addressed, stamped and posted by registered post.
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(4)  Every notice, order or document to be given by the Controller under this Act shall be signed by the Controller or by some person or persons from time to time authorised by the Controller in that behalf and every such notice, order or document shall be valid if the signature or an official facsimile thereof of the Controller or of such person or persons is duly printed or written thereon.
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(5)  Any notice or order under this Act requiring the attendance of any person or witness before the Controller shall be signed by the Controller or by a person duly authorised by the Controller.
[16B
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Protection from personal liability
19.  No suit or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Controller or any employment inspector or other person acting under the direction of the Controller for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in the execution or purported execution of this Act.
[16C
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Offence by body corporate
20.  Where an offence under this Act or any regulations made thereunder is committed by a body corporate, and it is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any act or default on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or any person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he, as well as the body corporate, shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
[16D
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Power to arrest without warrant
21.
—(1)  Any police officer or employment inspector may arrest without warrant any person who he reasonably believes is employed in Singapore whilst not in possession of a valid work permit.
(2)  Where any person is arrested by an employment inspector under this section, the employment inspector shall comply with sections 35 and 36 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap. 68) as if he were a police officer.
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Offences
22.
—(1)  Any person who —
(a)
fails to comply with any of the conditions of the work permit;
(b)
fails to comply with section 13(3);
(c)
wilfully obstructs an employment inspector in the exercise of his powers under section 16; or
(d)
makes any statement or furnishes any information to the Controller or an employment inspector under this Act which is false in any material particular or is misleading by reason of the omission of any material particular,
shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.
(2)  Any person who is guilty of an offence under this Act for which no penalty is expressly provided shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000.
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Abetment
23.
—(1)  Any person who abets the commission of an offence under this Act shall be guilty of the offence and shall be liable on conviction to be punished with the punishment provided for that offence.
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(2)  Where an occupier is charged for abetting another person who has employed a foreign worker in contravention of section 5(1), it shall not be sufficient for the occupier to prove in his defence that he had instructed the other person not to, or obtained from the other person an undertaking that he would not, so employ a foreign worker.
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[37/95]
Complaint by employment inspector
24.  For the purpose of section 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap. 68) and notwithstanding subsections (1) and (2) thereof, a Magistrate may take cognizance of any offence under this Act upon receiving a complaint in writing and signed by any employment inspector.
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Person primarily liable may exempt himself from liability
25.
—(1)  Where a person is charged with an offence under this Act, he shall be entitled, upon a charge duly made by him and on giving to the prosecution not less than 3 days’ notice in writing of his intention, to have any other person whom he charges as the actual offender (whether or not that person is his agent or employee) brought before the court at the time appointed for hearing the charge.
(1A)  If, after the commission of the offence has been proved, the first-mentioned person proves to the satisfaction of the court —
(a)
that he has used all due diligence to enforce the execution of this Act and any relevant regulation or order made thereunder; and
(b)
that the second-mentioned person had committed the offence in question without his consent, connivance or wilful default,
the first-mentioned person shall not be guilty of the offence and the second-mentioned person shall be convicted of the offence and shall, in the discretion of the court, be also liable to pay any costs incidental to the proceedings.
(2)  The prosecution shall have the right in any such case to cross-examine the first-mentioned person if he gives evidence and any witness called by him in support of his charge, and to call rebutting evidence.
(3)  Where the second-mentioned person brought before the court under subsection (1) by the first-mentioned person is found by the court to have committed the offence with the consent, connivance or wilful default of the first-mentioned person, the court may, after convicting the second-mentioned person, convict the first-mentioned person on a substituted charge of abetment of the offence.
(4)  When it is made to appear to the satisfaction of an employment inspector at the time of discovering an offence —
(a)
that the person who would be proceeded against apart from this subsection has used all due diligence to enforce the execution of this Act and any relevant regulation or order made thereunder;
(b)
by which person the offence has been committed; and
(c)
that it has been committed without the consent, connivance or wilful default of the first-mentioned person and in contravention of his orders,
the employment inspector shall proceed against the person whom he believes to be the actual offender without first proceeding against the first-mentioned person.
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Jurisdiction of Courts
26.  Notwithstanding the provisions of any written law to the contrary, a Magistrate’s Court or a District Court shall have jurisdiction to try any offence under this Act or any regulations made thereunder and shall have power to impose the full punishment for any such offence.
Composition of offences
27.  The Controller may compound any offence under this Act or any regulations made thereunder by accepting from the person reasonably suspected of committing the offence a sum not exceeding $1,000 .
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Forms
28.  For the purposes of this Act, the Controller may devise and use such forms as he may consider necessary.
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Regulations
29.
—(1)  The Minister may make regulations generally for carrying out the provisions of this Act.
(2)  Regulations made under subsection (1) may —
(a)
prescribe that any act or omission in contravention of the provisions of any regulation shall be an offence and shall be punishable with a fine not exceeding $5,000 or with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or with both;
(b)
prescribe such fees or charges as may be necessary for the purposes of this Act ;
(c)
provide for the taking and recording of finger impressions of any person who applies for or has been issued with a work permit and for the dissemination of such records to the police.
(3)  All such regulations shall be presented to Parliament as soon as possible after publication in the Gazette.
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Transitional provisions
30.
—(1)  Any permit, appointment, application, appeal, decision, ruling, order, discretion or notice issued, made or given under the repealed Regulation of Employment Act (Cap. 272) shall be treated as a permit, appointment, application, appeal, decision, ruling, order, direction or notice issued, made or given under this Act and shall have the same force and effect as a permit, appointment, application, appeal, decision, ruling, order, direction or notice issued, made or given under this Act.
(2)  Any form used for the purposes of the repealed Regulation of Employment Act which was in force or had effect immediately before 1st January 1991 shall continue in force and have effect as though prescribed under this Act until new forms are prescribed.
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