Top 3 Toughest Aspects of Payroll in Singapore

Assuming Payroll

Often times, companies generate payroll and pay out an entire month’s wages to an employee before the month has ended. We call this assuming payroll. This is how it works: If payroll is generated an the 25th and paid out on the 27th, the manager pays the full month’s wages, up till the 31st, assuming that the employee will make it to work on the last few days. If he doesn’t, the manager Optimizing Work Productivity with Happinessneeds to deduct his wage in the next month

Assuming payroll is an inefficient and inaccurate way of paying employees. We’ve come across many business owners who do it in Singapore. Most of the time, it’s because they have been doing it for years and have never thought about changing the rule. We help our clients transition from assuming payroll to regular payroll which saves clients money and time. Here is a blog post on exactly how to transition from assuming to regular payroll.

Irregular Clock-in Timings

When an employee clocks in at 8.57am instead of 9.00am, the biometric device records it to the exact minute. Your HR manager needs to manually correct the irregularity because coming in 3 minutes early does not mean that the employee will get paid for those extra three minutes.

The PayrollHero app has a threshold feature that solves this problem. An HR manager can set a threshold: if an employee clocks in between 8.55am and 9.05am, their clock-in time resets to 9.00am, automatically correcting the irregularity that your HR manager would have had to deal with otherwise.

Disparate Systems for Time, Attendance, Scheduling and Payroll

payrollhero-benefits-featuresBusiness owners have multiple systems that deal with different HR problems; a biometric device to measure clock ins, a separate Excel sheet that imports data from the biometric device and generates payroll, another Excel sheet that needs to be updated every week with schedules for each employee and a whole other system that employees use to apply for leave. With so many systems to deal with, no wonder an HR manager barely has any time to engage with employees or find innovative ways to overcome Singapore’s labor crunch.

An end-to-end solution that removes any need for multiple devices is exactly what an HR manager needs. PayrollHero allows employees to click selfies on their phone or an iPad in the work site when they clock in. This data is stored in the Cloud and used when payroll is generate by the system. The same app is used when applying for leave or checking schedules for the week. An HR manager can use the app on his laptop, phone or any device with internet connection anywhere in the world and have full control over what is going on at his work site.

While these problems are seen as some of HR managers’ biggest in Singapore, they are faced by managers in the Philippines and pretty much any other place too. Some of the other problems HR managers need to deal with are changing tax laws, a labor crunch and laws against foreign workers in the country.

We hope that this post serves as a solution to some of your biggest HR problems. Do let us know your biggest HR problem and how you are currently dealing with it.


The New Employee PayrollHero Happiness Report

Optimizing Work Productivity with HappinessWe recently announced that PayrollHero can generate employee happiness reports for our clients. What does that really mean?

PayrollHero takes in data in the form of selfies that employees have clicked on the app. The selfies are used to evaluate employee happiness by looking for certain metrics and correlating them to other selfies. For example, smiling for photos results in a different set of facial expressions than a serious face.

We know what you’re thinking. What if an employee smiles but isn’t really happy. Faking a smile is not hard and the metrics used to evaluate a real smile are the same as those used to evaluate a fake one. An employee could easily fool the app into thinking that the employee is happy when she really isn’t. Well, faking a smile has its own merits.

A Harvard study showed that a smile – whether fake or real – can be uplifting for one’s emotional well being. Granted, a momentary smile for a selfie certainly does not equate to happiness in life because a smile can be fake; but the act of smiling itself is a positive way to cope with sadness. Our preconceived notion that happiness causes us to smile is not always true. In fact, the reverse of that can work as well. A fake smile may be a better path towards happiness than others. It signals a willingness to stay positive in difficult times instead of suppressing ill feelings.

How does this relate to happiness reports? Well, from a high level, the happiness reports suggest a correlation between smiling and happiness and therefore suggest which employee or work site is the happiest. But with deeper inspection, the reports find a correlation between smiling and employees’ positive attitude. As a manager, you should consider the happiness report as a way of measuring positive sentiments in your workforce.

Finally, PayrollHero can use this data against employee records to find a trend in employee behavior. We can provide insight into whether happier employees are generally more punctual; whether unhappy employees experience a longer commute to work everyday; whether the happiest worksite equals highest earnings. This information is unique to PayrollHero’s data. Companies can leverage on it to make more informed decisions on what it takes to improve their bottom line.

Want to learn more? Contact us to chat further.


Creative Destruction in the F&B Industry

Creative Destruction in the F&B IndustryCreative destruction, a term coined by the economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942, is the concept of “incessant product and process innovation mechanism by which new production units replace outdated ones.” Schumpeter says that disruption is an important part of capitalism because it increases productivity.

As the term suggests, creative destruction isn’t a particularly comfortable concept, especially for those who are on the wrong side of it. The invention of the steam engine led to the creative destruction of travel by horses. The invention of automobiles led to the creative destruction of travel by steam engines. It’s an inevitable result of innovation which can make complete industries obsolete, and take thousands of jobs along with it. The positive outcome is that it creates new industries and redefines jobs within them.

So where is all of this going? McDonald’s recently announced its plan to install self ordering kiosks, thereby reducing manpower in their outlets. It’s not the only company to make a move towards automation. Chili’s Grill and Bar has made a move towards self ordering tablets. Restaurants in the US find automation a way to improve productivity.

There already exists a machine that creates 360 gourmet hamburgers in an hour. The entire machine could replace any human making burgers in the kitchen. According to this report, McDonald’s could fund the development of a burger making machine and see a one year return on investment. There are many reasons why companies are moving towards automating their processes.

In the United States, a big reason for this is the growing cost of labour. Currently, the minimum wage in the US is $7.25 per hour. For a few years now, workers in the F&B industry have protested that this number is far too low for it to be sustainable. They say that the reasonable wage floor should be at $15 per hour. LA recently passed legislation for $15 per hour.

The result of this is that fast food franchises are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the labour costs. The alternative is to automate. Mundane and repetitive tasks can be done by smart machines. Jobs where human interaction is required, like serving food, can be taken up by people. Another reason why automation makes sense is that it’s more efficient and faster. Queues are shorter, human errors are less common, if not completely erased.

You can see parallels in the F&B industry between the US and countries like Japan and Singapore. On the one hand, labour costs are increasing in the US, forcing companies to automate. On the other hand, Japan and Singapore are facing a labour crunch often due to unwillingness of the countries’ citizens to participate in this industry, leading these countries to automate as well. The story is the same, where labour as a factor of production is being replaced by machines that can do the same work and produce better results. And this is where creative destruction fits in.

What does this mean for the F&B industry? Restaurant technology will develop and will facilitate automation. The hamburger machine by Momentum Machines, Inc is just the beginning in the back-end of a restaurant. POS systems, self ordering kiosks, cloud based scheduling applications and online reservation websites are taking over the work of regular staff in a restaurant. An entire ecosystem of automation surrounding retail and F&B already exists but what will trigger the momentum of creative destruction is the lack of a sustainable solution to the problem of increasing costs: in this case, the cost of labour.

How to Deal with the Labour Crunch in Singapore


As you know, the F&B sector in Singapore has been facing a labour crunch for years now. Currently, for every foreign worker, the F&B sector needs to hire 6 local workers which is an impossible ratio for companies to handle. To attract more local workers, restaurants have had to raise costs without any increase in quality of service. Restaurants that were unable to do this resorted to leaving tables empty.

The Restaurant Association of Singapore proposed some solutions, including relaxing the foreign workers’ levy. While this measure is up to the government’s discretion, there are ways that restaurants can cope with the labour crunch.

Increasing Productivity through Technology

There are many front-end and back-end processes that can be streamlined by automating. In terms of adopting new technology, the restaurant industry has traditionally lagged behind the rest. However, the need to automate is clearer now than ever before. There are many examples in Singapore where restaurants have installed POS systems, set up digital menus or moved the practice of making reservations online.

Sakae Sushi in Singapore is a great example of automated processes. They have a conveyor belt that serves sushi. The belt is an island that is surrounded by tables so that customers can pick whichever dish they like. The restaurant also has iPads on every table to allow customers to order using the menu on the iPad.

McDonald’s Singapore is just catching up to the reality of increasing costs. Four out of approximately 120 outlets in Singapore have kiosks from which customers can order. 20% of their customers use kiosks. The systems reduce manpower required to take orders. It also makes the ordering process fool-proof, thereby saving time and money by preventing errors due to miscommunication between the customer and employee. In addition to reducing errors, McDonald’s employees can focus on back-end tasks and speed up service.

Balancing out costs: The result of automating is that there are shorter queues and more customers walking in through the door. The self ordering payment systems that Ananda Bhavan, a restaurant chain in Singapore uses, cost around $40,000. But in the long run, the investment pays off because of more orders and higher revenue.

To see a more tangible improvement in processes, Aptsys – a self-ordering POS system – released statistics on their website on how their product benefits restaurants. By their estimates, ordering speed increased by 70%, repeat orders increased by 30% and human errors decreased by 80%.

Tax credits: The government of Singapore has come up with incentives for companies to adopt newer technology. This includes training the staff with the new technology as well. The Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme gives companies a 400% tax deductions or 60% cash payout as long as the improvements in technology come under the six qualifying activities.

Singaporean restaurants are increasingly seeing a fall in revenue because of empty tables and increasing labour costs. The only way for the industry to cope with falling margins is to adopt technology that can reduce manpower. We have previously suggested ways to upgrade and adopt new technology in areas of reservations, POS systems and food delivery. Over the next few years, it remains to be seen whether foreign worker quotas will be relaxed in order to release the pressure that these industries are under. Currently, the way to move forward is by using the tax credits that the government is offering to upgrade restaurant technology.

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PayrollHero’s First Twitter Contest!

As you know, we have been creating some handy guides for opening restaurants in Singapore and the Philippines. We call them the PayrollHero Knowledge Kits.

Since we’re so excited about them and want to share them with the world, we’re hosting our first ever Twitter contest! From now until July 17th (Hari Raya Puasa), all you need to do, is retweet the link below to as many people as you can on your network.

If you can reach out to the most number of restaurants, businesses or people, we will feature you on our own blog! 

Why is this a good idea for you? Well, we have been featuring famous actors and basketball players on our blog: celebrities like Rocco Nacino, Shawn Weinstein and Sean Anthony have shared their favorite restaurants with us. How awesome would it be to get in on the action! You know you’re thinking to yourself, “this would be a great PR opportunity…”

Make sure you’re following @PayrollHero so you’re in the loop because in the coming weeks, we will be coming up with some great opportunities like this for you.

So what are you waiting for? Get tweeting! Your 15 minutes of PayrollHero fame awaits.

Below, you can see an example of a Twitter post that retweets the Knowledge Kits:


Food Hygiene Regulations in Singapore


In Singapore, food hygiene is monitored by the National Environment Agency (NEA). All food retail businesses must be registered to the NEA and regulated by the organization to prove that any food sold or produced by the food retail businesses is safe for consumption (retail businesses include restaurants, cafes, and more but excludes hawker centres).

Grading System

The NEA grades food service establishments based on personal and food hygiene and housekeeping of the premises. The grade must be displayed somewhere within the premises where it can be visible to the public. This is a method for the NEA to encourage establishments to improve their grade by adopting better practices. The assessment of the premises by the NEA results in the following grades:

  • A – a score of 85% or higher
  • B – a score of 70% to 84%
  • C – a score of 50% to 69%
  • D – a score of 40% to 49%

In order to help food service establishments to improve their cleanliness, the NEA has published the Food Handler’s Handbook and other practices and guiding materials.

Points Demerit System (PDS)

The PDS system is used in order to establish precedence for revoking licenses. Offences are categorized as minor, major and serious. Offences lead to demerit points. If an establishment collects 12 demerit points within 12 months, the establishment can be suspended for 2 to 4 weeks or its license can be revoked based on previous records. However this is a general guideline. The punishment differs for the type of establishment. For example, coffeeshops, food courts and canteens that accumulate 12 points over 12 months will be suspended for three days. Here is a detailed list of offences and the demerit points that they cost.

Food Handlers

The term food handlers refers to any person who is directly involved with food preparation: like the chefs, sous chefs, kitchen assistants, staff that handles beverages. Food handlers need to be registered by the NEA. As the owner of the establishment, you need to register all food handlers by filling up this form and submitting it to the nearest Regional Office. To find your nearest Regional Office, you must call 1800-2255 632 (1800-CALL NEA). In order to qualify as a food handler, a basic food hygiene course must be completed. The Food & Beverage Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) takes 6 hours of course work and 1.5 hours of assessment. Upon completion of assessment, the food handles will be given a Statement of Attainment. There are 2 subsequent refresher training sessions after 5 years and 10 years. The details on refresher training are on this page.

Food Safety Management System (FSMS)

The FSMS is used to ensure that manufacture, distribution and storage of food is safe for consumption. Every food service establishment must have an FSMS plan. The components of the plan are the following:

1. FSMS Plan 

a.    Flow diagram: with Critical Control Points identified

b.    Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points: charts for Critical Control Points (CCPs)

2. “WSQ Apply Food Safety Management System for Food Service Establishments Certificate (Statement of Attainment)

For more information on the FSMS and the requirements for your FSMS plan, click here. The link also gives information on different rules for new caterers and caterers that need to renew their license.

Finally, the NEA along with Spring Singapore has created a Singapore Standard for food service establishments so that they can make their FSMS plans by referring to the guideline. The guideline is $42 and can be purchased here. The process of creating the FSMS plan involves a workshop which includes 14 hours of course work and 5 hours of assessment.

That sums up the brief introduction to food hygiene regulations in Singapore. Hope that helps!

4 Job Boards to Hire Your Best Recruits in Southeast Asia

unnamed-1Today, there are a mind boggling number of channels to use while searching for the best candidate to join your team. In Singapore, the number one channel for recruiters to hire employees is through an online jobs portal. The other Southeast Asian nations are catching up to the trend. Which means, not only do you have to post in multiple online portals, you also have to stand out from every other company in your industry because everyone is using the most popular channel. We want to help you with that. Here we have a list of jobs portals, both conventional and specialized, for restaurant and retail owners to recruit staff.

Recruitasia: This website is devoted to the hospitality sector in Singapore. This is a great site for very specific roles for your establishment. It also provides industry news so that you can stay ahead of the curve when you are recruiting. Currently, the website is in beta stage. During this stage, jobs can be posted free of charge while the website is adding new features and receiving customer feedback to improve their application procedure.

JobsDB: This website runs ads in many Southeast Asian countries: Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and China. In Singapore, it currently has 300 positions posted on the website under F&B. In the Philippines, the site features 960 positions. Every recruiting ad costs SGD 99. However, JobsDB is turning over all Job ads to in order to streamline the two recruiting sites into one. JobStreet runs in Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Currently, the Singapore site is featuring approximately 800 vacant positions in the F&B industry.This is the largest recruitment website in the Philippines and one you cannot miss while posting ads. The Philippine website is currently running a promo package that is 40% off the standard price (the standard price being PHP 5,600). The Singapore website runs 3 packages, based on number of ads you want to post and how long you want them to stay live. The price ranges between SGD 180 to SGD 400.

KalibrrKalibrr: This startup recruitment website works on a completely different pricing strategy. Instead of charging employers per ad, the ads are free and the database is open for employers to find their best candidate. They are charged a minimal fee of PHP 50 only when they want to contact the candidate. This company is becoming increasingly popular in the Philippines with around 1000 applicants signing up every day. Kalibrr features restaurants and retail as the most popular searches. (Disclosure, both Mike Stephenson and Stephen Jagger of PayrollHero are investors in Kalibrr)

These four are a few of the most popular recruiting website in Southeast Asia. We hope this list is useful and do let us know if you have any additions to the list that are unconventional or special to the retail or restaurant industries.

How to Get an Import License in Singapore


How do you import the best ingredients for that awesome burger?

Scenario 1: Your restaurant is up and running. We’ve got your back with the liquor license. But now, you want to introduce a new segment to your restaurant: modern Japanese. You realize you need to import supplies in order to wow your customers.

Scenario 2: You are running a grocery store and want to sell imported products: meat, fish, eggs, processed food. Your supplies are coming in from all over the world and the suppliers are ready for business.

Your imported supplies need to be approved by Singapore Customs. You need an import license before you do anything else. How do you proceed?

Step 1: You need to register with Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). But before that you must make sure of the following:

  • Ensure that the imported products comply with the General Classification of Food and Food Products
  • Do note that importing fresh table eggs require an additional screening process to ensure that you have complied with the storage requirements. More on this here.
  • Make sure that the food establishment that is exporting food to Singapore is accredited by AVA. You can check here if the country or food establishment you are importing from is accredited by AVA.
  • An active Unique Entity Number (UEN) with Singapore Customs. To learn how to activate your customs account, click here.
  • A GIRO account for the payment of fees

Step 2: Submit an application to AVA through the e-licensing website. You can apply for a license to import meat, fish products, fresh fruits, vegetables and table eggs. To import processed food products and food appliances, you have to register on the same website (no license).

Step 3: You must pay for your license via GIRO

Here are the charges for licensing and registration fees:

License for Import/Export/Transshipment of Meat and Fish Products SGD 84/year Normal Service:
1 working day to processExpress Service:
Same day processing. Pay an additional fee equal to the cost of your licence
Licence for Import/Transshipment of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables S$378 per annum Normal Service:
1 working day to processExpress Service:
Same day processing. Pay an additional fee equal to the cost of your licence
Licence to Import Table Eggs Free 5 working days to process
Registration to Import Processed Food Products and Food Appliances Free 1 working day to process.

The process is straightforward and quick.


News: Labour Crunch in Singapore

Labour Crunch in SingaporeThe F&B sector is facing a labour crunch. Restaurants are turning away diners even though they have empty tables because they are understaffed. This has been a problem in Singapore, but never more serious than now. Singapore’s unemployment rate is at a stunning 1.9%. The turnover rate in the F&B business is the highest among all industries.

As an economics student, I see this as an interesting problem. Finding out what is going on behind the statistic is necessary from a policy perspective. But it also helps a restaurant owner to prepare his or her restaurant and steer through till the economy adjusts to the issue. So what is going on and what can you expect?

  1. Saturated labour market

With such a low unemployment rate, the pool for new recruits is drying. It would help if Singapore could widen its employment base and rope in people who have dropped out of the labour force altogether. However there is a problem with this.

Employment numbers among locals is concentrated towards food services, retail trade and construction. Wages in these domestic oriented industries are lower than export oriented ones. Low wages are a disincentive. People will be more willing to joining the labour force if wages were higher.

The second problem with widening the employment base is that the population of Singapore is too small. There aren’t enough locals to widen the labour market. But more on that later.

Now, we have mentioned that wages are low in the food services and retail market. But you must be noticing that you need to pay higher to retain your workers. This is the typical economics demand-supply problem. As the demand for workers rises while the supply remains the same, wages must rise. If it has not happened in a dramatic way yet, it will eventually. Markets will adjust and overcome rigidities unless the government intervenes.

  1. Labour Laws

Let’s go back to widening the labour market and why we can’t seem to do that. Firstly, Singapore’s local population is too small. Secondly, foreign workers are restricted by numbers and industries.

For the F&B services, it would help to employ a foreign worker for every old-age worker, as suggested by Food and Beverage Work Group Report. While this is a policy decision that the government has to take, restaurant owners should be aware about the policy changes that are likely to come about, considering the current labour market.

  1. Perception of working in the F&B industry

It is hardly surprising that the labour market is not kind to F&B services. The hours are eratic, the pay is low. The lack of a minimum wage in Singapore leads to wages being pushed down to a point where Singaporeans cannot accept the job.

The overall benefits of an entry level worker in the F&B industry are minimal. This could have damaging effects. If the government does decide to loosen rules on part-time, the connotation that is attached to F&B employment may hinder chances of employing students. If this perception does not change, the F&B industry might see more restaurants shutting down.


Let’s say that the government will intervene and solve the situation at some point of time. But what can you do in the meantime?

  1. Increasing Productivity Through Technology

There can be no better time to invest in technology than now. With a shrinking labour force, restaurants have fewer waiters to take orders and handle customers. By installing POS systems, waiters can focus on serving customers. Improving other aspects of your businesses will also cut costs and help you through the tight economy. Inventory management and food delivery ordering systems can be digitzed. All this aims towards reducing manpower and costs.

  1. Improving the perception of working in F&B

This is imperative in order to bring in workers into your restaurant. There are a few ways you can do this. Firstly, add more meat to the job. The worker should know that there is a possibility of growing in the job.

For more tips on retaining young workers read “How we keep our young talents from leaving“.

Secondly, workers must be awarded with performance based incentives. They need to feel empowered and know that working hard will pay off. This will raise the perception of the industry as one that can further career prospects for individuals.

  1. Training

Lastly, Putting them through well designed training programs will improve turnover rates. The Group Report suggest the training program implemented in Singapore Airlines and customized to the F&B industry.

The F&B industry needs to change with the times and adapt to the current economic conditions. Restaurant owners need to adopt best practices and use technology to reduce human errors and eventually reduce costs. This way, the industry will be less exposed to labour market fluctuations that can potentially result in damaging Singapore’s reputation as the food hub of Southeast Asia.

If you are in need of people, check out our friends at BGC for your staffing needs.


Giving credit to the ‘little guy’ in your company

The PayrollHero Way
Giving credit where credit is due is an important task for managers to keep the morale of their employees up. Employees like to be noticed and praised for a job well done.

Why are managers not giving enough praise? Besides the fact that you are busy running around, taking care of daily operations; making sure everything is running as it should, finding out which employee did well for the last 4 weeks will take more effort. Most of the time, this task is not on the top of the priority list and so easily overlooked.

PayrollHero can help you look good to your employees!

Surely there are times where you wish you would have remembered to at least say ‘Good Job’ to Bob the cashier for working 8 hours and being the most helpful. Human errors like this can be avoided by using a simple app, where you can monitor your employees day to day work and track how they are performing accurately.

By using the employee feedback app, Daily Pulse, employees are able to ‘like’ their colleagues that was the most helpful at the end of the shift. Another plus, your customer can give their feedback using the Customer Feedback app too- by voting for the employee that was the most helpful to them.

You, the manager, will receive the data in real time via Xray Insights app. The app will show a clearer view of each employee performance and tracks the employee who is getting the most ‘likes’ on that particular shift. Information is readily available for you at a touch of a button. This makes your job so much easier! It also eliminate subjectivity in your decision as it is based on figures- not hearsay.

Work Place Transparency

At PayrollHero, we want to break the conventional workplace hierarchy by making information more transparent within the company. Using mobile or web apps, all managers can readily access whatever information required anytime, anywhere. We recognize that being on the ball is important when running a business- so time should not be wasted on you waiting for information from other managers.

The Data Might Even Surprise You! 

You may be glad to find out that the employee that is actually doing great is the person you least expect. It could very well be the person who is clearing the dishes- that is the most helpful employee among the rest and the most ‘likeable’ to your customers.

The app works by making sure every employee is acknowledged, from the chef to the janitor. You can be the best manager who knows exactly the deserving employees to give credit to at the end of the day.

Read our post on Scheduling Best Practices for Managers.

Want to learn how to be a better manager?

Join our next Meetup on 10th Jun 2015 @ 4pm in Singapore.

We will be focusing on tips and tools you can use to better optimize HR and payroll processes, while cutting costs on time and creating a happier work culture.

To register >>> Capture