COVID-19: MOM will penalise firms for 'weak' measures

'Employers must allow your employees to work from home, as far as reasonably practicable'

COVID-19: MOM will penalise firms for 'weak' measures

Companies in Singapore that fail to arrange flexi-work arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic may face penalties, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

In a press conference (31 March), she announced the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) tougher stance on employers. The ministry is considering fines and other penalties, including a stop-work order for enforcement purposes.

“Employers must allow your employees to work from home, as far as reasonably practicable,” said Teo. “This applies to all workplaces, regardless of size.

“It should be for all times, all days and not sometimes, some days. If the nature of work can allow for work to be done from home, companies should ensure that all their employees work from home.”

READ MORE: Covid-19: Tips for successful remote working

The public sector has been taking the lead, with some government agencies having up to 90% of their staff telecommuting.

Some companies, such as Bloomberg, had achieved up to 80% of workers telecommuting, while others had managed to get all their staff on such arrangements.

However, MOM estimated that for companies in the Central Business District, only 40% of workers were telecommuting. Teo said the figures were based on the ministry’s own inspections as well as other sources of information.

She acknowledged that remote working may not be applicable for all sectors, such as manufacturing. In these cases, Teo said companies should implement safe distancing measures internally, as well as for interactions with external parties like customers or suppliers.

Companies should also put in place staggered arrival and departure hours, to avoid a situation where “everyone has to arrive at the same time, take the same lifts, and…everyone has to leave at the same time, go to the bus stops at the same time.”

“MOM will step up enforcement in the coming weeks,” she said. “Our officers will look at the nature of work as a matter of principle…we want to see companies make the best possible efforts to implement 100% telecommuting – that’s the bar to aim for.

“We will look at companies’ specific circumstances. If we assess that a company has not made a serious enough effort to implement telecommuting, then we may have to issue stop-work order.”

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