Circuit Breaker: How can HR support employees?

Starting 7 April, there will be a 'movement restriction' across Singapore for at least one month

Circuit Breaker: How can HR support employees?

Last Friday (3 April), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore will implement additional safe distancing measures to minimise movement and curb the spread of COVID-19.

From 7 April to 4 May, Singapore will observe a ‘Circuit Breaker’ that will see the closure of most workplaces, all schools and non-essential businesses.

The measure is intended to further reduce the number of workers who need to travel for work, said Ministry of Manpower (MOM). However, they noted that in the last few weeks, there has been a ‘significant reduction’ in human traffic as employers ramped up remote-working arrangements following stricter enforcement.

READ MORE: 5 simple ways HR can support remote workers

As the new measure is a “big adjustment” for employers and employees – professionally and personally – HRD put together a quick summary and what leaders can do to manage the drastic change.

What is a Circuit Breaker?
A restriction of movement across Singapore. Only essential businesses are allowed to stay open during the period of the measure – from 7 April to 4 May. The situation will be monitored closely and there may be an extension, if necessary.

What businesses will be affected?
Only essential businesses will remain open – these staff are allowed to go into office.

Essential businesses:

  • Healthcare and social care services
  • Food retailers, supply and delivery, including supermarkets
  • Energy, petrol, and gas services
  • Water, waste and environmental management
  • Public and private transport services, and logistic providers
  • Information and communications services
  • Security, facilities management, and critical public infrastructure
  • Manufacturing, pharmaceutical and biomedical science
  • Banking and finance, insurance and asset management
  • Repair services, such as electricians, plumbers and mechanics

What will be closed:

  • Schools – To fully shift to home-based learning. Parents working in essential services can approach schools for help
  • Most workplaces
  • Attractions – All venues, like theme parks, museums and casinos will be closed
  • Sports facilities – Places like swimming pools and gyms will shut
  • F&B or Restaurants – Dine in service not allowed. Only takeaway and delivery allowed

MOM officers will begin enforcement operations from 7 April to ensure that only businesses that are exempted from the suspension are operating from their workplace premises.

READ MORE: MOM penalises firms for safe distancing lapses

How can employers help?
Individuals are also advised to stay at home as much as possible, and should only go out for essential grocery shopping, daily exercise, or taking away food. Social contact should be confined to immediate family members living in the same household.

Since the announcement, employers and individuals have been advised to prepare ahead for the month-long restriction. MOM urged employers to plan and carry out duties or tasks that must be performed at the workplace premises before the measures come into effect on Tuesday.

For employees who cannot work from home or at their workplace premises, employers should work out with them clear salary and leave arrangements, based on the principle of shared responsibility.

Such arrangements should take into consideration the government support for wages and any subsidies for training.

"With people staying away from workplaces, students on full home-based learning, and everyone following tighter safe distancing rules, the new cases should gradually slow down, and we should get into a better position,” PM Lee said in a post.

“But for the circuit breaker to be effective, everyone has to cooperate and comply with the restrictions. Please stay home.

“If you must go out, please practise safe distancing. And remember to maintain good personal hygiene. The health of us all depends on the actions of each of us.”

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