Knowledge Highlights 3 November 2021

On 23 October 2021, the tripartite partners, comprising the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), issued an updated Advisory on Covid-19 vaccination at the workplace.

The Advisory is issued following the workforce vaccination measures announced by the Covid-19 Multi-Ministry Taskforce on 23 October 2021 that, starting from 1 January 2022, only employees who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 within 270 days, can return to the workplace. All unvaccinated employees will not be allowed at the workplace unless they have a negative Pre-Event Testing (“PET”) result, which must be valid for the duration that employees are required to be present at the workplace. Unvaccinated employees have to pay for the costs of PET and show the results to their employers when reporting to the workplace.

According to the Advisory, as of 17 October 2021, 70% of firms have attained 100% vaccine coverage for their workforce, while 96% of the total workforce has been vaccinated.

The Advisory provides guidance to employers and employees on the work arrangement employers can take to manage unvaccinated employees who are unable to be physically present at the workplace. Employers may adjust their HR policies, in consultation with unions if applicable.

Work arrangements for unvaccinated employees

Employers may exercise their prerogative to allow unvaccinated employees whose work can be performed at home to continue to work from home. However, the tripartite partners note in the Advisory that as the vast majority of vaccinated employees eventually return to the workplace, the prolonged absence of the unvaccinated employees from the workplace may affect their individual performance and also negatively impact team or organisational performance.

Employers have the following options for unvaccinated employees whose work cannot be performed from home:

  • Allow them to continue in the existing job with PET done at employees’ own expense and own time (i.e. outside of working hours);
  • Redeploy them to suitable jobs which can be done from home if such jobs are available, with remuneration commensurate with the responsibilities of the alternative jobs; or
  • Place them on no-pay leave or, as a last resort, terminate their employment (with notice) in accordance with the employment contract. If termination of employment is due to employees’ inability to be at the workplace to perform their contracted work, such termination of employment would not be considered as wrongful dismissal.

Unvaccinated employees who are medically ineligible for vaccines under NVP

Employers should consider the following measures for unvaccinated employees who are certified to be medically ineligible for vaccines under the National Vaccination Programme (“NVP”):

  • Allow working from home if the employees are able to do so and their absence from the workplace should not affect assessment of their performance;
  • Redeploy them to suitable jobs which can be done from home if such jobs are available, with remuneration commensurate with the responsibilities of the alternative jobs; or
  • Exempt them from the workforce vaccination measures described above if they need to work on-site.

Pregnant employees

Employers are strongly encouraged to give special consideration to the needs and concerns of their pregnant employees and should consider the following arrangements for them:

  • Allow working from home if the employees are able to do so and their absence from the workplace should not affect assessment of their performance; or
  • Redeploy them to suitable jobs which can be done from home if such jobs are available, with remuneration commensurate with the responsibilities of the alternative jobs.

Next steps

The tripartite partners urge the remaining 30% of employers to make a concerted push to get their unvaccinated employees to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Companies may check their company’s vaccination rate via a new web service at https://go.gov.sg/percentvaccinated (Corppass required).

Employers may ask employees for their vaccination status for the purpose of planning deployment at the workplace. Employers may also require employees to produce proof of vaccination before reporting to the workplace. Employees who refuse to do so would be treated as unvaccinated.

Employers should facilitate vaccination by granting paid time-off to employees for their vaccination (including vaccination booster shots), and additional paid sick leave (beyond contractual or statutory requirement) should the employee experience a vaccine-related adverse reaction.

The tripartite partners also urge the remaining 4% of unvaccinated employees to go for vaccination as soon as possible to avoid any impact to their jobs and livelihoods.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the MOM website www.mom.gov.sg:

 

Further information

Allen & Gledhill has a Covid-19 Resource Centre on our website www.allenandgledhill.com that contains knowhow and materials 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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