Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has issued additional guidance for employers to help their foreign workers remit salaries to their home countries, in the instance the workers are isolated in their dormitories for safe distancing.

During the Circuit Breaker, foreign workers will still have access to remittance services within their dormitories, through avenues such as mobile remittance agents (activated at some dormitories) or online remittance services, the MOM stated.

However, in cases where these foreign workers may require options that aren’t available on-site or online, employers are encouraged to check in with them and assist them with it.

“Employers who are in the process of setting up the workers’ bank accounts and need to pay their foreign workers’ salaries by cash for the current payment cycle, may also consider this option to avoid making a physical trip to the dormitories for the purposes of safe distancing.

“For subsequent payment cycles, employers should continue to pay salaries electronically directly to the workers’ bank accounts.”

The employer should obtain the foreign worker’s written consent (text or email) on this, and keep a record of their remittance requests. These requests should include details such as:

  • The worker’s full name, FIN, date of birth, nationality and address;
  • The specified amount of his/her salary to be remitted overseas;
  • Their specified name and bank account details of intended recipient; and
  • The specified date or time period for the remittance transaction to take place.

Employers to note:

  • Do verity all information received from the worker, against their own records before processing the remittance request;
  • For cumulative remittances above S$500 in a single month, the employer must also submit a copy of the worker’s work permit for verification by the remittance service provider;
  • Employers may choose any remittance service provider, but ensure it’s mutually-agreed on between the employer and foreign worker;
  • Employers may refer remittance service providers to MAS Circular Nos: MAS/PD/2020/07, AMLD 02/2020 (issued via MASNET on 16 April 2020) for the required customer due diligence measures for such remittances during this period;
  • Once the remittance is complete, employers should inform the foreign worker in writing, with proof of the completed transaction; and
  • Both parties are responsible for any loss of monies resulting from errors on their part.

The MOM also advises employers to make it clear that this is a temporary arrangement that will cease once the Circuit Breaker period ends, and foreign workers are able to access their usual remittance service providers.

In similar news, the Economic Development Board (EDB) has released an updated set of advisories for businesses, in further efforts to manage the COVID-19 situation.

Sections of this are summarised below, as a reminder for employers and HR:

All workplaces should update their business continuity plans

Employers should have their business continuity plans updated and are encouraged to have them in place, and remain prepared for a trend of increasing community transmission. Employers can refer to the Guidelines developed by Enterprise Singapore in doing so.

Guidelines for employers with affected workers, businesses in essential services

Employers should ensure they have worked out clear salary and leave arrangements with employees who are unable to work from home, or at the workplace during the Circuit Breaker, on the principle of shared responsibility.

Such arrangements should take into consideration support provided by the government, for both wages and training subsidies.

As for businesses providing essential services, they are reminded to operate with the minimum staff needed on their premises, to ensure the continued running of the services. Employers should also ensure strict safe distancing measures are in place:

  • All activities that can be done via telecommuting should be done from home;
  • Reduce the need for and duration of physical interactions, stagger working hours, and postpone all group events; and
  • Implement shift work and/or split-team arrangements.

Support measures already in place for businesses

As businesses seek to adjust to the changing operating environment, the EDB “strongly encourages” employers to take a long-term view of their manpower needs. When managing excess manpower, retrenchment should always be the last resort, after other options have been considered and found to be unworkable.

For appropriate measures to manage excess manpower, employers are advised to refer to the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment.

If an employer has 10 or more employees and have implemented any cost-saving measures that affects employees’ monthly salaries (including bonuses and increments) during this period, they are required to notify the MOM through this online form – within one week after implementation.

This temporary requirement is in place to encourage responsible implementation of such measures, prevent downstream salary disputes, and allow MOM to monitor the scope and scale of such measures.

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