30 May 2022
Following the Ministry of Health announcement on the general lifting of Vaccination Differentiated Safe Management Measures which took effect on 26 April 2022, the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) updated advisories on Covid-19 arrangements at the workplace, as follows:
MOM advisory on workplace safe management measures: On 22 April 2022, the MOM advisory on workplace safe management measures was updated. With all employees being able to return to the workplace and employers having the flexibility to continue implementing vaccination-related instructions for employees for workplace health and safety and business continuity reasons (and in accordance with employment law), the advisory sets out the following:
- Employees returning to the workplace are encouraged to self-test when they feel unwell or where they have had recent contact with an infected person.
- Employers are encouraged to continue to offer flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting and staggered work hours.
- For employees (and contractors and vendors) who are physically onsite at the workplace, mask wearing is required indoors except when (i) persons are not interacting with others, and (ii) not in customer-facing areas where interaction is likely to happen. While this concession provides some flexibility for employees as more return to the workplace, MOM advises all to exercise social responsibility and maintain an appropriate safe distance from others while unmasked.
- Employers must establish a system to implement the safe management measures in a sustainable manner so as to provide a safe working environment. This includes assessing and identifying the risks of transmission of Covid-19 that may arise in the workplace, and to mitigate it.
Past requirements that employers no longer need to implement include:
- Prohibition of workplace social gathering and events
- Safe distancing of one metre for mask-off settings
- Capacity limit for mask-off events
- Use of TraceTogether-only SafeEntry, or take other reasonably practicable measures, to record the entry of all personnel (including employees and visitors) entering the workplace
- Workforce vaccination measures
- Work-from-home requirements
MOM advisory on Covid-19 vaccination at the workplace: On 25 April 2022, the MOM advisory on Covid-19 vaccination at the workplace was updated to announce the lifting of workforce vaccination measures, meaning that unvaccinated employees were not prohibited from entering the workplace from 26 April 2022.
The advisory states that employers, taking into consideration the workplace health and safety and operational needs of their respective companies or sectors, may implement vaccination-differentiated requirements for their employees (such as disallowing unvaccinated employees from entering the workplace), as a matter of company policy and in accordance with employment law. Employees who do not show proof of vaccination to their employers may be treated as unvaccinated for the purpose of implementing vaccination-differentiated company policies at the workplace.
For unvaccinated employees whose jobs require working on-site as determined by the employers under such a company policy, employers may:
- Redeploy them to other suitable jobs if such jobs are available, with remuneration commensurate with the responsibilities of the alternative jobs; or
- Place them on no-pay leave based on mutually agreeable terms; or
- As a last resort after exploring options above, terminate their employment (with notice) in accordance with the employment contract.
If the 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.
MOM states that it is critical for employers to communicate clearly the rationale and details of the company’s vaccination-differentiated policies to affected employees. To avoid potential disputes, employers may wish to consult with their employees and unions (where applicable). Employers should also consider the duration for which, and the specific roles or settings in which, it is necessary to maintain such policies.
The tripartite partners maintain their call for employers to make a concerted push to get their unvaccinated employees to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Employers may check their workforce’s vaccination rate using the Workforce Vaccination Checker. Employers should continue to facilitate vaccination by granting paid time-off to employees (including vaccination booster shots), and additional paid sick leave (beyond contractual or statutory requirement) in the rare event that the employee experiences a vaccine-related adverse reaction.
MOM advisory on work and leave arrangements for employees who test positive for Covid-19 but are mildly symptomatic or physically well: On 16 May 2022, the MOM advisory on work and leave arrangements for employees who test positive for Covid-19 but are mildly symptomatic or physically well was updated. As close contacts are no longer issued Health Risk Notices, the advisory states that employees who are household members or close contacts of Covid-19-positive individuals are advised to practise social responsibility. They should minimise social interactions, especially with vulnerable persons, monitor their health, and obtain a negative self-administered ART result daily for the next five days before leaving home (e.g. for work) on that day. Those who test ART-positive should follow the protocol as set out in the advisory. More information is also available from the MOM FAQs on work and leave arrangements for employees who test positive for Covid-19 but are mildly symptomatic or physically well webpage.