Knowledge Highlights 2 April 2020

As the Covid-19 situation continues to develop in Singapore, the Infectious Diseases (Workplace Measures to Prevent Spread of Covid-19) Regulations 2020 (“Regulations”) made under the Infectious Diseases Act were gazetted on 1 April 2020. The Regulations are in force from 2 to 30 April 2020 (“control period”).

The Regulations criminalise actions of employers, principals, occupiers, workers and other individuals visiting workplaces if those actions are in contravention of stipulated workplace measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Employers and principals to implement telecommuting

For the purposes of preventing the spread of Covid-19, the Regulations provide that every employer and principal must (a) provide facilities necessary for, and (b) direct every worker to, work in the worker’s place of residence in Singapore during the control period, unless it is not reasonably practical.

Safe distancing measures by employers and principals at the workplace

The Regulations provide that every employer and principal must implement the following measures during the control period in respect of every worker at work or other individual at the workplace:

(a) Place workers in groups to avoid/minimise physical interaction: As far as reasonably practicable, workers should be placed in two or more groups for the purpose of avoiding or minimising physical interaction between workers in different groups when at work in the workplace;

(b) Workers not to leave/arrive the workplace at the same time: As far as reasonably practicable, workers who are to work in the workplace should not all arrive at and leave the workplace at the same time;

(c) Workers to report employer or principal immediately if symptomatic or physically unwell: Any worker who exhibits any specified symptom (i.e. coughing, sneezing, breathlessness or a runny nose) or is otherwise physically unwell is required to report, immediately upon the onset of the symptom or feeling physically unwell, to the employer or principal, either directly or indirectly through one or more other persons appointed by the employer or principal to receive the report;

(d) Minimum distance of one metre between any two individuals: The employer or principal must take reasonable steps to ensure that there is a distance of at least one metre between any two individuals in the workplace.

Without limiting sub-paragraph (d) above, every employer and principal must take all reasonable steps during the control period to implement the following:

(a) Ensure seating is at least one metre apart: Where seating is provided to individuals (including at workers’ workstations and in meeting rooms) in the workplace, to ensure that seats that are not fixed to the floor or wall or any other thing are at least one metre away from any other seat at all times, and in any other case, ensure that alternate seats are demarcated as seats not to be occupied;

(b) Apply practices that ensure individuals are at least one metre apart in queues or in any other area: Where individuals may form a queue or remain in an area (including a pantry, waiting area or room, or an area with changing or sanitary facilities) in the workplace for any reason, to apply practices that ensure that every individual in the queue or area is at least one metre away from any other individual in the queue or area; and

(c) Restrict arrival and duration of visit of non-workers to the workplace: Where individuals (other than workers) enter the workplace for any reason (including to deliver or receive goods or services in the workplace), to ensure that those individuals do not arrive at the workplace at the same time and that they do not remain in the workplace for a longer period than necessary.

Employers and principals must cancel or postpone every organised activity that involves interaction in person between the workers of the employer or principal or between those workers and other individuals during the control period, except for the following activities:

(a) Critical activities: Any activity that is critical to the operations of the employer’s or principal’s organisation;

(b) Professional or vocational training, test or certification: Any activity during which workers are provided professional or vocational training or are tested or certified for any professional or vocational purposes; or

(c) Provision of education by educational institutions: Any activity during which workers are provided education by an educational institution.

Communications by employers and principals

Employers and principals must, as far as reasonably practicable, communicate to all workers and individuals (other than workers) the workplace measures taken under the regulations that apply to them.

Obligations of occupiers

Occupiers of workplaces must take the following measures during the control period:

(a) Allow natural ventilation during working hours: As far as reasonably practicable, allow natural ventilation of the workplace during working hours;

(b) Take body temperature of and observe individuals entering workplace: Take the body temperature of every individual entering the workplace, in order to determine whether the individual is febrile and to visually ascertain whether the individual displays any specified symptom;

(c) Obtain contact particulars of individuals: Obtain and keep the contact particulars of every individual (other than a worker who ordinarily works in the workplace), before allowing the individual to enter the workplace, so as to facilitate contact tracing measures;

(d) Refuse entry to febrile, symptomatic and uncooperative individuals: Refuse entry to the workplace any individual who is febrile or who exhibits any specified symptom, or who refuses to comply with any measure mentioned in sub-paragraph (b) or (c) above;

(e) Implement measures on distancing of individuals: Implement the measures and take the reasonable steps prescribed under the Regulations in relation to distancing between individuals at the workplace; and

(f) Request febrile and symptomatic individuals to leave workplace, if not possible, isolate such individuals: Where any individual in the workplace is found by the occupier to be febrile or to display any specified symptom, the occupier should:

(i) as far as reasonably practicable, provide the individual with a face mask and require the individual to wear the face mask;

(ii) require the individual to immediately leave the workplace; and

(iii) if the individual is not able to immediately leave the workplace, isolate the individual.

Workers and other individuals subject to movement control measures

Employers and principals must not require or permit a worker who is subject to a movement control measure (essentially stay orders imposed by the Government to prevent the spread of Covid-19) to enter the workplace during the control period. The Regulations also provide that an occupier of a workplace must during the control period refuse entry into the workplace of an individual whom the occupier knows or has reason to believe is subject to a movement control measure.

Obligations of workers and other individuals

The Regulations provide that a worker or other individual who exhibits any specified symptom or is febrile must not enter any workplace. Further, workers or other individuals should comply with an employer’s, principal’s or occupier’s requirements to do or refrain from doing anything in relation to any measure stipulated under the Regulations.

Offences

The Regulations provide that a person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes specified provisions under the Regulations shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.

Other subsidiary legislation was also gazetted on 1 April 2020 to allow for certain offences under the Regulations to be compounded.

Reference materials

Further information

Allen & Gledhill has a Covid-19 Resource Centre on our website www.allenandgledhill.com that contains published knowhow on legal and regulatory aspects of the Covid-19 crisis.

In addition, we have a cross-disciplinary Covid-19 Legal Task Force consisting of Partners across various practice areas to provide rapid assistance. Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at .covid19taskforce@allenandgledhill.com.

 

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