As the year draws to a close, you may be thinking of quitting your job for something better or for a change in environment. Typically, the Annual Wage Supplement (AWS) or “13th month bonus” is handed out during December, so you might be wondering if you should wait for the sum to be deposited into your bank account before you hand in your resignation letter.
The answer is, yes, you should—if you want your bonus, that is. Most companies require that you be employed throughout the bonus period and remain a current employee at the time of the actual payout. So even if you were entitled to a bonus, you likely will not get it if you leave your company on, say December 22 and bonuses are paid out on January 2.
And so you decided to persevere and stay in your company until you’ve received your bonus. The next question is:
Can you quit after receiving your bonus? Will the company ask for the money back?
Caroline, a HR manager at a local logistics company, says that bonus eligibility criteria for some companies are stringent, requiring employees to still be employed with them until the bonus payout period. Some companies even require employees to stay with the company for a certain period after the bonuses have been paid.
There may be a clause in your bonus letter stating that you need to stay employed for a number of days after the bonus payout, otherwise the company will take back the bonus—and this is legal because it has been stated in the bonus letter.
Employees may claim that this is cunning and goes against employee welfare. But don’t forget that bonuses and incentives are given under the employers’ discretion to begin with. Bonuses are used to reward outstanding and loyal employees, not those who are raring to leave the company.
Can you take it up with MOM or the union if your company asks for the money back?
If it has been stated clearly in your bonus letter that you have to stay on for a certain period of time after the bonus payout, you have to follow it. The company does have the right to ask for the money back.
In other cases, if they have already credited the bonuses into your bank account, the company has no right to ask for the money back, unless mentioned explicitly in the bonus letter.
Does the company have the right to undo the transaction after the money has been credited to your account?
As a general rule, banks can reverse a payment made in error only with the consent of the person who received it. This usually involves the recipient’s bank contacting the account holder to ask for his or her permission to reverse the transaction.
If your bonus letter clearly states that you can only keep your bonus if you stay on for a period of time, the company then has the right to ask for the money back. Otherwise, the bonus may be deducted from your final month’s pay.
How long should you wait before quitting?
Leaving right after obtaining your bonus may not be the wisest decision to make: you never know when you might need a recommendation from your co-workers and managers. Your prospective employer might also do a reference check, and if your boss is still sour about you bailing right after getting your bonus, you are unlikely to get a glowing review.
At the very least, no matter how unhappy you are with your current state of employment, it’s best not to quit blindly after receiving their bonus with no other source of employment to serve as a fall-back option.
Also read: Should You Quit Your Job To Get A Pay Raise?
Is it worth waiting for your bonus?
If you are reaching the end of the year, it might be worth it to wait for your bonus, since the 13th month bonus is typically paid out at the end of the year. It’s a sweet reward for yourself for working hard all year.
If you are thinking of quitting two or three months before your bonus payout, you would have to forgo the money. However, this is your personal decision. Always consider all pros and cons before you hand in that resignation letter!
Text: Joyce Chua