Can You Claim THR?

Another interesting issue raised by the TBI Bekasi report is the question of whether expats are entitled to claim THR. The expat teacher at Bekasi explored the issue and even went to the Department of Manpower and it appears that expats are entitled to the payment. TBI, unsurprisingly, has been avoiding its legal obligations in this area for years.

What is THR? People who have worked in Indonesia  for a while will know that Indonesian staff receive an extra month’s salary at Lebaran. This is a real help to Muslim Indonesian teachers and staff who incur a lot of extra costs at that time of year. Christian Indonesians also receive the payment: TBI has long employed a large number of Batak staff, for example, and they receive THR too. 

Though this payment is a great help for staff on low incomes, it certainly isn’t a welfare based scheme. The amount you receive is one month of your regular salary, so Ibu Ning would have received over fifty million rupiah worth of THR, while a lowly office assistant would have received a measly one million or so. As always in graft and corruption rife Indonesia, the wealthy and powerful rig things in their own favor.

So if the TBI Director, who never struck me as a pious Muslim, can pocket thirty million rupiah THR, why don’t expats get it? Well, perhaps they are entitled to.

Readers of the Bekasi teacher report will recall that he was asked to prove he was a practising Christian and promised he would get it if he could. Now the teacher in question was a man of faith and a regular church goer and he even produced his minister at the meeting with Hery to vouch for this fact. But do you think TBI honored its promises and the laws of Indonesia? Sadly, they once again washed their hands off the whole affair and Binsar, rogue and mock Christian that he is, reneged on his earlier promise and paid only half of his legal responsibilities.TBI’s typically callous and arrogant response was to say they would not intervene to help Binsar’s latest victim. They seem incpable of learning from their mistakes.

Finally, two points. This requirement to prove your religiosity is unequally applied by TBI in a way that is discriminatory against expats. While most Indonesian staff are religious, quite a number practise free sex, drink alcohol and are more likely to worship the newest Android than any religious diety. That is no problem at all to this liberal, gay individualist with New Age spiritual leanings. But I strongly object to expats being asked to prove their faith when Indonesians are not. In reality, it is just a ploy to cheat expat teachers of their legal rights. It shows how much money trumps every moral or religious principle for the Binsars and Mariams of this world.

Secondly it makes no sense for them to deny it to expat teachers based on the fact that THR isn’t in the TBI contract. THR is part of Indonesian workplace law and thus regulates all workplace relationships. TBI’s dodgy contracts do not over-ride national law. Expat teachers should demand their THR back pay today.



4 thoughts on “Can You Claim THR?

  1. Indonesian law specifically states that ALL employees, regardless of national origin, must receive the 13th month bonus annually. The only available options are that companies can opt to pay Muslims at Idul Fitri and Christians at Christmas, and that the bonus may be pro-rated for employees who have been on payroll less than one year. The bonus is not performance based nor does it have anything to do with company profitability. Furthermore, the law requires companies to pay into the Jamsostek retirement system on behalf of all employees, unless an expat can prove that he or she is covered by a system in their home country. Upon termination, the employee has the option to take a full pay-out or roll it over into the next job.

    Typically, what happens with expats is the employers assume ignorance of the law, so they show a paper payment of the annual bonus (and perhaps Jamsostek), but pocket the money rather than give it to the employee. Remedies for expats include hiring a lawyer to go after the money, which is pretty effective, as most employers roll over as soon as they are challenged. If not, the expat can contact KPK (corruption commission) and/or local media.

    The law in this matter is quite clear and unambiguous. There is no room for weaseling out. It is fairly easy to find a lawyer to take a percentage of any money collected, and collection efforts can cover any amount of past obligations. Also, expats should carefully check their tax statements at this time of year to make sure they are not being charged tax on money they did not receive. It is very hard to hide this sort of thing and the tax statement is one place that is pretty obvious, since the employer will want to pocket the money but avoid the tax burden, as well as have a paper trail showing they paid the annual bonus.

    Anyone who finds their tax report shows money paid that they did not receive should start raising holy hell about it, contact their tax office, find a lawyer, etc.

  2. Additional information concerning contracts:

    In Indonesia, all contracts MUST be in Indonesian. That is not to say that they cannot contain translations to other languages, but the contract is completely worthless if it is not written in the Indonesian language. If your contract is NOT written in Bahasa Indonesia, it is toilet paper, all the meterai (tax stamps) and signatures notwithstanding.

    Next, all contracts MUST have the five essential parts to be valid: definitions, jurisdiction, performance, warranty, and remedy. In other words, they must clearly define the parties and any special terms. They must state what legal authority controls the contract. They must state clearly what is expected of all the parties to the contract. The parties must warrant their intent to perform in good faith. They must state any penalties if performance is not met, and they must state what the parties must do to seek relief (trial, mediation, arbitration, etc.).

    Finally, each party must receive an original copy of the contract with a meterai (tax stamp) under the signatures of all counter-parties. Demand a copy of the contract and walk away if it is not forthcoming.

    One additional note, things like bonuses required by law do not need to be included in the contract to be binding on the employer. The employee may waive those legal rights if it is specifically spelled out in the contract (usu. things like Jamsostek).

    Also, if your contract does not have an English translation, you may demand that one be provided to you from a certified translator. The certified translation will have a notary stamp on it. Unless you speak and read fluent Bahasa Indonesia, do not trust anyone to read it to you or bang out a ‘translation’ that is uncertified. You may be surprised at what you have signed to if you don’t get a notarized translation.

    The most important thing to note here is that if your contract in NOT IN INDONESIAN, then you DO NOT have a contract.

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