Working from home should be default mode in first 2 phases of reopening after Covid-19 circuit breaker: MOM

Employees who have been working from home must continue to do so.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - When the circuit breaker ends, all companies - including those resuming operations in the first two phases of the economy's re-opening - should adopt working from home as a default option.

This means that employees who have been working from home must continue to do so, and should go to the office only where there is no alternative.

Checks will be conducted to ensure that this is being done, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a press release on Friday (May 29), and businesses that do not ensure that employees work from home where possible, or whose workers do not adhere to safe management measures, may have to close their workplaces.

To reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission in the community, all workplace personnel, including employees and visitors, should minimise socialising in the first two phases of the economy's re-opening, said MOM, which gave more updates on safe management measures that companies should take in its press release.

All social gatherings, such as birthday celebrations and team-bonding activities at the workplace, must be cancelled or deferred.

"Employers must ensure employees do not socialise or congregate in groups at the workplace, including during meals or breaks. Employers should not organise social gatherings outside the workplace, and also remind employees not to socialise both during or outside working hours," added MOM.

To streamline processes, the SafeEntry digital check-in system has been enhanced to allow workers to make health declarations when they enter their workplaces, including stating that they do not have fever or flu-like symptoms and that they are not under a quarantine order or stay-home notice.

Previously, employers had to record these declarations separately, and keep them for 28 days. Now, they no longer have to keep these records as long as the declarations are made upon check-in via SafeEntry.

Some businesses had also given feedback that the temperature screening processes that were initially outlined by the authorities could be duplicative.

For instance, they could be tenants of a unit in an office building where screening is already conducted, and it may not make sense for temperature screening to be conducted again before an employee enters the unit.

In response to this, MOM said on Friday that regular checks for temperature and respiratory symptoms that need to be conducted twice daily can now be conducted by the employer or another party, such as the employer's landlord.

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During inspections, employers can demonstrate that the checks are in place by providing records of temperature checks. Alternatively, they can now demonstrate this by showing the facilities installed for temperature screening, such as a thermal scanner or temperature screening station.

MOM also gave more updates on safety measures that are required when workers are ferried in transport provided by employers, such as private buses, vans and lorries.

It stated that all workers must wear a mask at all times while seated in a vehicle, and they should not talk or interact while they are in the vehicle.

In a lorry or van, the clear floor space of the deck available for each seated passenger should not be less than 0.496 sq m.

This means a 25 per cent reduction of the maximum passenger capacity (MPC) that is allowed for each lorry or van. For instance, if the MPC label states 36 occupants, the capacity should be reduced to 27 occupants.

Employers must also arrange for private transportation for workers staying in dormitories to commute to and from their workplaces, and with no other passengers in these modes of transport.

MOM said it will work with tripartite partners to continue to update the requirements for workplaces periodically, to take into account further medical advice, technological updates and operational practices.

"These updates will help employers to keep workplaces safe amidst the fluid Covid-19 situation, while streamlining processes where possible."

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This article was first published inĀ The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.