Singapore case law update: breaches of fiduciary duties and employment duties do not necessarily constitute “serious misconduct”

Singapore has traditionally be known as a reasonably employer-friendly jurisdiction, with limited statutory protection offered to employees in professional, managerial and executive positions (“PMEs”), most notably in the context of termination of employment. In the past few years though, the trend has shifted to make Singapore more employee-friendly, both in Parliament with the upcoming introduction of an Employment Claims Tribunal as an alternative swifter and more cost-effective means of dispute resolution for high income earning PMEs, and before the civil courts.

The 2015 case of Iouri Piattchanine v Phosagro Asia Pte Ltd is a clear example of that trend, where the High Court found that breaches by an employee of his fiduciary duties, as well as his express and implied duties of employment were nonetheless insufficient to justify his summary dismissal by his employer for serious misconduct or wilful breach.

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