NSmen Reservist System: Reservist Leave, Deferment, and more

What employers need to know about Singapore's Reservist System
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Editor’s Note (August 2023): Hey readers! We first shared this article about the reservist system and reservist leave back in December 2020. It’s been updated to keep things fresh and relevant for 2023. Thanks for sticking with us!

The NSmen Reservist System is like a two-step relay between the diligent Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) and the committed Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen). Once NSFs complete their full-time duties, NSmen step up with their annual “Reservist” obligations. This is where the spotlight shines on Reservist Leave. But first, let’s backtrack a little here.

As you may already know, most Singaporean men have this shared experience: National Service (NS). Think of it as a two-year “mandated rite of passage”, pivotal to the country’s national defence strategy.

Photo by Warren on Unsplash

Usually kicking off at age 18, a man will gear up for some military, police, or civil defence action. During these two years, he is known as a Full-time National Servicemen (NSF). After his initial two years of NS, he doesn’t just hang up his boots for good. Even though he has “graduated” and is no longer an NSF, he now now takes on the role of an Operationally Ready National Serviceman (NSman).

For the next chunk of his life (typically until his in his 30s’ or 40s’), he will be placed in the reservist system, taking on “Operationally Ready National Service (ORNS)” activities. This means that for about ten years, once a year, for about a week or two, he’ll swap his work attire for his military uniform, join his buddies, and brush up on his military skills.

Yep, it’s like a refresher course to make sure everyone’s still sharp and ready, just in case they’re needed to defend the country.

Photo by Specna Arms on Unsplash

If you are an employer, you should be aware that the Singapore government requires you to support your employees’ NS responsibilities. This means that well, you should be placing their NS responsibilities above their work responsibilities. Before we talk about the ways you can support your employee’s NS responsibilities, let’s visit the standard process of the reservist system in Singapore.

An NSman will receive advanced notice for his In-Camp Training (ICT)

Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

He may receive the notification about 1 to 6 months before the call-up commences, via SMS or email. The notification periods vary base on the type of ORNS activity, as follows:

Type of call-upNotification periodSession duration
High Key (HK) ICT/Course6 months in advance7 days or more
Low Key (LK) ICT/Course3 months in advanceLess than 7 days
HK Make-Up Training (MUT)2 months in advanceVaries with each individual
LK MUT1 month in advanceVaries with each individual
A call-up that lasts 1 day or less1 month in advance1 day or less

The Singapore government puts these advance notices in place to allow employers ample time in preparing for the NSman employee’ absence. Hopefully, this reduces disruption to the company’s operations.

So, what are the next steps upon receiving the advanced notification?

He will need to notify you of his NS commitments

Your employee will need to give you an official notice once he receives his training notification.

This will be a SAF100 form in soft copy, which states his ORNS activity details (e.g. reporting date, time, venue, etc.). He can retrieve his eSAF100 form from his NS Portal account.

Then, you will need to ensure that your employee can apply for Reservist Leave. Some traditional HR systems may require you to manually set up Reservist Leave for the relevant employees.

Other HR systems like Talenox will help you automatically ensure that Reservist Leave can only be available to employees who meet the following requirements:

  1. Gender: Male
  2. Immigration Status: Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents.

For reservist leave, service pay will be provided

“Service pay” refers to the compensation or salary that an NSman receives during his In-Camp Training (ICT) or when he’s called back for reservist duties. Essentially, when he takes time off from his regular job to serve the nation, he ain’t doing it for free. It’s kinda like his “military paycheck” during that period. It is typically paid by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) in Singapore.

This includes Saturdays and Sundays as well. Furthermore, service pay is determined by the NSman’s rank and vocation. It might not necessarily match what they earn in their civilian job.

If there is a shortfall between his civilian salary (the regular salary or wage that an individual earns from their civilian job) and his service pay, you can apply for make-up pay (MUP). This is calculated based on your employee’s basic salary or allowance payable during his ICT.

Consider registering for DIRECT

As the employer, you can register for direct reimbursement of MUP under Direct Reimbursement to Employers of Claims for NS Training Scheme (DIRECT). Under this arrangement, you will continue to pay your staff as per your company’s pay schedule; in turn, you will get reimbursement from the government.

With this arrangement, payment will be made directly to your company. Your employee will therefore not need to file a claim. Claims should be submitted 2 weeks prior to commencement of ICT and can either be done via the NS portal, or the make-up claim form which can be downloaded online.

Not registering with the DIRECT scheme

If you choose to go with the Indirect Scheme, calculate the salary proration for that month using our Salary Proration Calculator. Then ensure that the NS Leave Claim Deduction is factored into the payroll process. If you’re using the Talenox system, here’s how you can carry this out easily in Step 2 of 3 in your payroll process.

Continued CPF contribution

Do note that MINDEF’s reimbursement to the employee is a Net Amount; hence, full CPF contribution will still be deducted. In other words, you should continue to pay your employee’s CPF contribution based on the usual remuneration during the ICT period.

Other considerations within the Singapore reservist system

ICT deferment for personal reasons

An NSman may apply for deferment – via Manage Call-Ups & Manning on the NS Portal.

In the context of Singapore’s National Service (NS), a man asking for “deferment” means asking for permission to postpone his military service or reservist training for a bit. Maybe he’s midway through university, or there’s a significant work commitment. It’s like hitting the “pause” button on NS duties, but remember, it’s just a delay, not a way out!

Here are some of the valid reasons eligible for deferment:

  1. Examinations or professional evaluations
  2. Marriage and honeymoon
  3. Birth of a child
  4. Compassionate grounds (e.g. serious illness or death of next-of-kin)

ICT deferment for work-related reasons

While work commitments are not grounds for deferment, the authorities may still grant certain work-related deferments, such as:

  1. New employment (i.e. first three months of employment with your company)
  2. Risk of temporary understaffing (i.e. when two or more NSmen employed in the same capacity in the same department of your company are called up for ICT at the same time.)
  3. Newly established business

Such an application should be accompanied by relevant supporting documents. Do note that the NS Portal only allows up to a maximum of 5 documents for the application.

What to expect after ICT deferment application

After the submission, the applicant will be able to track his application status and receive an outcome letter in the same eService within 14 working days. He will also be notified of his deferment application’s outcome via SMS and email, as well as a letter through the same eService.

All in all, these notifications of the applicant’s deferment request will state not just the outcome but also the required action for his application.

Moreover, NSmen who defer their ICTs need to attend Make-Up Training; in these cases, they will only receive a notice period of 1 month for their Make-Up Training.

The repercussions to expect for being absent

If your NSman employee is absent from the ORNS activity without approval, he will be called back for investigation and subjected to disciplinary action.

Factoring an NSman’s overseas travel for work

As the employer, you will need to take note of the following requirements for notification of overseas movements, should you intend to send your employee for overseas assignments:

No. of days on overseas assignment(s)Requirement for notification of overseas movement
14 days or lessNo notification required
More than 14 days, but less than 6 monthsInform relevant authorities of the overseas trip through the NS Portal
More than 6 monthsMust apply for exit permit through the NS Portal
Photo by Ramon Kagie on Unsplash

As long your employee is an NSman (still placed in the reservist system) and needs to travel overseas for more than 14 days, he will need to notify the relevant authorities of your travel by applying for his exit permit through the NS Portal

For trips of more than 14 days but less than 6 months, he may choose to apply via the portal or call the NS hotline at 1800 367 6767.

Note: Your employee does not need to apply for overseas movement if he is sent abroad for his reservist leave.

In conclusion

Got through all that? You’ve successfully dived into the world of the NSmen Reservist System and the whole Reservist Leave thing. But hey, as we juggle work and those NS commitments in Singapore, it’s good to have a clue. Thanks for sticking around and reading!

For more information on NS matters, you may refer to this resource.

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