Former employees of honestbee have filed claims to the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) for non-payment of salaries. A honestbee spokesperson confirmed to Marketing that there are 77 cases against the company for unpaid salaries.The spokesperson added that the company however, is not in a financial position to make payments in full given the protracted closure of its brick-and-mortar retail store habitat by honestbee.
“The company has kept its employees and ex-staff informed on the company’s position and further updates will be provided in due course. Likewise, the relevant authorities have been informed of the circumstances,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spokesperson confirmed to Marketing that out of the 77 cases, 16 were filed in the past month and the cases have been scheduled for mediation in March 2020. According to MOM, honestbee owes employees their salaries for February 2020 and CPF contributions for the months January and February 2020. Whilst for its former employees, a MOM spokesperson told Marketing that honestbee has committed to a repayment schedule over five instalments from 30 September 2019.
“honestbee has complied with the repayment schedule except for the final instalment due on 31 January 2020 to 45 former employees, and CPF contributions due on 14 February for 38 former employees,” the MOM spokesperson revealed. MOM is also encouraging all current and former employees of honestbee with outstanding unpaid salary, including work pass holders, to file their claims with TADM.
The MOM and TADM have issued a warning to honestbee, urging the company to prioritise the final instalment to affected employees and said it will continue to monitor the repayment. In addition, MOM has also required honestbee to provide an update on their plans for salary payment to their current employees.
“Under the Employment Act, employers who fail to pay salaries to their employees are liable to be fined up to SG$15,000 and/or imprisoned up to six months. Employers who do not fulfil their CPF obligations to employees may be fined up to SG$5,000 and no less than SG$1,000 per offence and/or imprisoned up to six months under the CPF Act,” the statement read.
honestbee has been facing financial woes since mid 2019. The company confirmed in July 2019 that there have been delays in paying salaries but did not clarify if this is for existing staff members or those that have left the company, after about 10% of its global headcount were laid off in May. A honestbee spokesperson told Marketing then that while the delays are true, these were communicated to staff. It added that the new management team, consisting newly appointed CEO Brian Koo, was taking steps to remain transparent by communicating to staff on payment issues. The spokesperson however, did not disclose the number of staff affected in Singapore.
The next round of lay offs were just last week. Honestbee laid off 80% of its staff in Singapore, and said its total headcount was at 130 prior to the lay offs. Habitat by honestbee was initially temporarily suspended until 23 February 2020 due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Singapore. However, an honestbee spokesperson confirmed that the management has decided to suspend habitat by honestbee in view of difficult commercial circumstances, and that it has also since seen a significant reduction in walk-in traffic at habitat by honestbee.
However, the company has since ventured into a pizza joint business. An honestbee spokesperson confirmed to Marketing that honestbee has a retail store located at Upper East Coast Road which will become a quick service F&B pizza concept and a tech-enabled convenience store.