Alexander Proudfoot Productivity Services Co S'pore Pte Ltd v Sim Hua Ngee Alvin and another appeal

JudgeChao Hick Tin J
Judgment Date31 December 1992
Neutral Citation[1992] SGCA 88
Docket NumberCivil Appeals Nos 21 and 22
Date31 December 1992
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselNoor Lila A Hamid (Seah Chwee Lim & Associates)
Citation[1992] SGCA 88
Defendant CounselM Sivakumar (Arthur Loke & Partners)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterEmployment Law,Whether notice accepted,Whether notice of termination valid,Employer giving one month's notice to terminate on wrong letterhead,Termination,Basis for assessing damages,Contract terminable on one month's notice

Cur Adv Vult

The respondents were employees of the appellants whose services were terminated. They sued for wrongful dismissal. The learned judicial commissioner Lai Siu Chiu held that the termination was wrongful. She awarded the respondent (Sim) in Civil Appeal No 21 of 1992 the sum of $24,050 as damages and the respondent (Ang) in Civil Appeal No 22 of 1992 the sum of $2,950. The appellants appealed against both these orders. At the conclusion of the hearing we allowed the appeal in CA 21/1992 and reduced the amount of damages awarded to Sim for wrongful dismissal to a sum of $4,180. Costs were given to the appellants and we fixed the amount at $5,000. However, we dismissed the appeal in CA 22/1992 with costs to the respondent (Ang) fixed at $3,000. We now give our reasons.

The facts of the case giving rise to the two actions were not very much in dispute.
Sim was first employed by the appellants on 17 January 1985. A written agreement was entered into between them (`the service agreement`). Some three weeks later Ang was also employed by the appellants in similar terms though his position and wages were different from Sim. For the purposes of the present proceedings the following were the relevant provisions of the service agreements:

3.01. The employee shall perform such duties as may from time to time be assigned to him and shall comply with all reasonable directions made by the company. The employee may be required in pursuance of this employment to be engaged not only on work on behalf of the company but also on work on behalf of any other group company and may be required to travel outside Singapore in the performance of his duties.

7.01.The employment may be terminated by the company or the employee upon giving written notice or salary in lieu of notice, as follows:

Period of Notice Period of service completed

1 day less than 12 weeks 1 month 12 weeks and above

7.02. The company shall be entitled, by written notice to the employee, to terminate forthwith the employment ... in any of the following cases, namely:

(a) If the employee is guilty of dishonesty or serious or persistent misconduct or, without reasonable cause, neglects or refuses to attend to the business of the company ...

(b) If the employee becomes incapacitated by illness or otherwise ...

(c) If the employee becomes a bankrupt ... [Emphasis added]

On 15 March 1987 both Sim and Ang were assigned for duties in the United Kingdom, Sim at Birmingham and Ang at Manchester.
These assignments were in accordance with cl 3.01 of the service agreement. We should at this juncture mention that the appellants are a subsidiary of a multinational company, with affiliated or subsidiary companies worldwide.

At Ang`s workplace at Manchester he encountered remarks being made by other people as to whether he had proper immigration clearance to work there.
It was said that he required a work permit. However, Sim did not experience similar encounters. But both were unhappy with regard to the amount of the allowances which the appellants were paying them for living in England. They complained on both these matters, namely, the question of the work permit and the amount of the allowance, to the appellants` operations manager, one David Reed (`Reed`) who apparently did not attend to those complaints to their satisfaction.

The learned judicial commissioner found the complaint of inadequate allowance to be false.
As regards the question of the need for a work permit, she found that Sim did not encounter anything on that at all at his workplace and if not for the influence of Ang, he would not have raised it with Reed. Nothing in this case really turned on this point.

On 24 March 1987, both Sim and Ang, without prior approval, returned to Singapore.
The next day they were summoned to go up to Kuala Lumpur to see Reed, who was also the man in charge of an affiliated company, Alexander Proudfoot (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (`AP Malaysia`). On 26 March 1987 at the office of AP Malaysia, Reed told them separately that their services were terminated and he handed to each a written notice of termination of their employment. The written notice was typed on the letterhead of AP Malaysia and signed by Reed for AP Malaysia. The contents of the letter read:

Following your recent premature and unauthorized return from our European operation we are forced to terminate your employment with us.

The only available positions for you at present are in Europe, and as this appears unacceptable to yourself we unfortunately cannot place you elsewhere in the organization.

We hereby give you one month`s notice as per your employment contract.


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