This comes as the country moves to a 'heightened alert' to tackle the rise in COVID-19 community cases, and new variants across clusters. The tightened measures will take place from 8 to 30 May 2021. Read on for the updated safe management measures employers should note.
Effective 8 May 2021 and up till 30 May, employers must ensure that no more than 50% of employees who are able to work from home return to the workplace at any time, as Singapore tightens its measures to tackle COVID-19.
Announcing this on Tuesday (5 May 2021), the Multi-Ministry Taskforce said employers should continue to stagger start times of employees who need to return to the workplace, and implement flexible working hours. Social gatherings at the workplace should be avoided.
However, if they cannot be avoided (e.g. during meal breaks), the gatherings are subject to the revised group size of five people. Employers must exercise heightened vigilance at the workplace. These measures, it shared, will lower transmission risks by reducing overall footfall and interactions at common spaces at or near the workplace, and in public places, including public transport.
In line with this, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has released a series of updates to its existing safe management measures at the workplace across three prongs - take care of your workers; take care of your workplace; take care of those who may become unwell at your workplaces. Excerpts below. Read MOM's full updates here.
Take care of your workers
Provide employees options to work from home.
- From 8 May 2021 to 30 May 2021, employers must exercise heightened vigilance at the workplace. Employers must ensure that no more than 50% of employees who are able to work from home are at the workplace at any point in time.
- For example, a company with 100 employees who can work from home can have up to 50 of these employees at the workplace at any point in time.
- There is no limit on the proportion of an individual employee’s working time that can be spent at the workplace.
- Employers are encouraged to support as many employees in working from home as possible. This will help to limit the number of employees exposed at the workplace at any point in time, and reduce crowding in common areas, e.g. pantries, toilets, lifts. Having more employees work from home will also help sustain business operations should a case emerge at the workplace.
- Work-from-home measures should enable employees to maintain work-life harmony while continuing to meet business needs. The Tripartite Advisory on mental wellbeing at workplaces sets out practical guidance on measures that employers can adopt to support their employees’ mental well-being under a variety of work arrangements.
- For employees who are still unable to work from home, employers should review work processes, provide the necessary IT equipment to employees and adopt solutions that enable remote working and online collaboration. Employers are encouraged to leverage technology to ensure business continuity and safe management.
- Companies should continue to conduct virtual meetings as far as possible.
- Companies should pay special attention to vulnerable employees (e.g. persons who are aged 60 and above, and patients who are immunocompromised or have concurrent medical conditions). Employers are encouraged to enable these employees to work-from-home, allow them to travel to/from work at off-peak timings, temporarily redeploy them to another role within the company, or take other appropriate measures to reduce their exposure to infection risk.
For employees at the workplace, employers must ensure the following precautions are in place:
- Stagger start times and allow flexible workplace hours: This will spread out staff across time and place, and reduces possible congregation of employees at common spaces at or near the workplace, such as entrances, exits, lobbies, canteens, pantries. It also reduces congestion of people in public places, including public transport.
- With more employees back in the office, employers are encouraged to stagger the start times for all employees such that at least half of all employees arrive at the workplace at or after 10am, as far as possible.
- If physical meetings are needed, they can be scheduled after 10am. These measures would enable more employees to avoid peak-hour travel, especially if employees require the use of public transport. Timings of lunch and other breaks should also be staggered accordingly.
- For employees who can work-from-home but who return to the workplace, employers should also allow for flexible workplace hours. This is not to shorten work hours, but to allow flexibility to reduce the duration spent in the workplace, while also working from home during the day.
All work-related events that proceed must adhere to prevailing workplace Safe Management Measures and are subjected to the following requirements:
- The number of persons per event must be capped at 50 persons to limit the risk of exposure to infection.
- Attendees must maintain at least one metre safe distancing between individual attendees, as per the requirement at the workplace.
- Meals should not be the main feature of the event. Employers should also avoid holding events over mealtimes as far as possible. Food or drinks should only be served if incidental to the workplace event (e.g. the meeting or conference extends over lunchtime). In addition, the food must be served individually with the participants seated while consuming. Participants should minimise the time that they are unmasked while eating.
- Work-related events at third-party venues will also be subject to any additional premise owners’ safe management policies.
Take care of the workplace
Control access at the workplace to only essential employees and authorised visitors. Employers must use the SafeEntry visitor management system to record the entry of all personnel (including employees and visitors) entering the workplace. All employees and visitors should check-in and check-out of workplaces using SafeEntry to help MOH in establishing potential transmission chains.
- Personnel who are unwell (including having a fever upon temperature screening) must be refused entry to the workplace.
- Visitors who are unwell should be asked to reschedule their appointments to another day when they are well, or be served via alternate means.
Employers must ensure that employees and visitors must declare via SafeEntry or other means (e.g. electronic or hard copy records), before being allowed to enter premises, that they:
- Are currently not under a Quarantine Order, Stay-Home Notice;
- Have not had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days; and
- Do not have any fever or flu-like symptoms.
Adhere to travel advisories: Employers should ensure that their employees adhere to MOH’s prevailing travel advisory.
Where physical interaction cannot be avoided, precautions should be taken to ensure clear physical spacing of at least one metre through physical means and demarcation of safe physical distances (at least one metre apart) using visual indicators, where possible, in the following situations:
- Between all persons at meeting rooms, work areas, and workstations; and
- At all times during work-related events held at the workplace.
Take care of workers who become unwell at the workplace
Ensure regular checks for temperature and respiratory symptoms for all onsite employees and visitors, twice daily or where relevant. Employers must be able to demonstrate that these checks are in place during inspections.
Record proximity data on phones: To help MOH to more quickly identify potential close contacts of COVID-19 patients and reduce disease transmission, employers should encourage all employees to download and activate the TraceTogether app.
Actively monitor unwell employees and guard against incipient outbreaks:
- Employees at the workplace who have visited a clinic must submit to their employers records of their MCs and diagnoses provided (only for COVID-19-related symptoms, including acute respiratory infections), and if they were tested for COVID-19 and the results of their tests.
- Employers must take preventive action to guard against incipient outbreaks at the workplace, such as advising employees who are unwell to stay home and consult a doctor rather than going to the workplace, requiring these employees on MCs to closely monitor their health before returning to the workplace and requiring these employees’ close contacts at the workplace to monitor their health more regularly.
Where possible, employers should ensure that each employee visits only one clinic for check-ups if unwell. Otherwise, employees should inform the clinic of all recent doctor visits over past 14 days for any symptoms that may be related to COVID-19.
Manage unwell cases: An evacuation plan must be prepared for unwell or suspected cases, as well as for other onsite personnel.
- Any employee who is feeling unwell or showing symptoms of illness should report to his employer, leave the workplace and consult a doctor immediately, even if symptoms may appear mild. Employers must track and record these cases as part of safe management measures.
- For incapacitated or unconscious individuals, employers must clear the area of other personnel and administer aid immediately. Employers should call 995 for an emergency ambulance to ferry them to the nearest hospital.
Manage confirmed cases: A follow-up plan must be put in place in the event of a confirmed case. Upon being notified of a confirmed case, employers must adopt the following precautionary measures:
- Immediately vacate and cordon-off the immediate section of the workplace premises where the confirmed case worked. There is no need to vacate the building or the whole floor if there had been no sustained and close contact with the confirmed case; and
- Carry out a thorough cleaning and disinfecting all relevant on-site areas and assets that were exposed to confirmed cases, in accordance to NEA guidelines.
For worksites with confirmed cases, businesses could be suspended if there are public health grounds.
The Ministry stressed: "Agencies including MOM, Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) will continue to enforce safe management measures and take action against errant employers. This may include issuing stop-work orders and financial penalties."
Apart from the above and as part of the tightened measures, Singapore also announced the following that will take place from 7 or 8 May, to 30 May 2021:
Reduced size for social gatherings, from eight to five
The current permissible group size of up to eight persons will be reduced to up to five persons. As earlier announced on 30 April 2021, individuals are advised to keep to two or less social gatherings per day, whether visiting another household or meeting with friends/ family members in a public place. The cap of eight distinct visitors per household per day will also be reduced to five distinct visitors per household per day.
Longer SHN duration of 21 days, up from 14
From 7 May 2021, 2359 hours, the following changes to the SHN duration will be implemented:
- All travellers with recent travel history to higher risk countries/regions, and who are arriving from 7 May 2021, 2359 hours, will be required to serve 21-day SHN at dedicated SHN facilities. Travellers who are currently serving 14-day SHN and have yet to complete their SHN by 7 May 2021, 2359 hours, will be required to serve an additional seven days at their current SHN location to minimise movement and risk of transmission.
- Travellers who have stayed in Fiji and Vietnam in the last 14 days before arrival in Singapore were previously allowed to opt out of serving 14-day SHN at dedicated SHN facilities. From 7 May 2021, 2359 hours, travellers who have stayed in these countries in the past consecutive 21 days before arrival in Singapore will be subjected to 21-day SHN at dedicated SHN facilities, with the option to serve the last seven days at their place of residence. Those whohave yet to complete their 14-day SHN by 7 May 2021, 2359 hours can complete their remaining 14-day SHN at their current SHN location, and serve their additional seven days at their place of residence, instead of at dedicated SHN facilities.
- Travellers from the UK, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka who are currently required to serve 21-day SHN will be required to serve the full duration of the SHN at dedicated SHN facilities. Travellers who have yet to complete their 21-day SHN by 7 May 2021, 2359 hours, will have to complete their 21-day SHN at their current SHN location to minimise movement and risk of transmission.
- Travellers serving 21-day SHN will undergo COVID-19 PCR tests on-arrival, on day 14 of their SHN, and before the end of their 21-day SHN period.
Other measures that included tightened capacities at high-traffic venues, reduced event capacities, and more, can be found here.
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