Singapore firms charged for 'unsafe' return to work

Working from home must remain the default arrangement for staff who can do so, says MOM

Singapore firms charged for 'unsafe' return to work

As Singapore transitions into phase one of the ‘new normal’, three workplaces were told to cease operations for failing to meet the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) standards for a safe reopening.

The unnamed firms did not put in place adequate safe management measures and had instructed all employees to return to office instead of allowing staff to continue working from home, reported MOM.

The employers were found out during recent enforcement operations by MOM, which also saw 14 composition fines charged to other errant firms. The ministry inspected over 200 workplaces.

In a Facebook post, MOM said they typically conduct investigations based on employee complaints. When the authorities receive complaints that staff were asked to return to work despite being able to work from home during the Circuit Breaker period, MOM will follow up with the employer.

If the employer is unable to offer a reasonable explanation, MOM will take the necessary enforcement action.

“It is understandable that some employers may be eager to bring their employees back to work in the office after two months of circuit breaker,” said Silas Sng, Divisional Director, Occupational Safety and Health Division at MOM.

“However, we would like to remind employers that working from home must remain the default working arrangement for employees who are able to do so.”

READ MORE: MOM reveals checklist for businesses to resume operations

Singapore has been easing lockdown restrictions since June 2. The first of three phases will focus on the reopening of businesses – however companies are only allowed to do so under strict conditions.

“With the phased approach, we are ready to help our workers go back to work and allow businesses to resume in a safe way,” said Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in a statement.

The authorities have consistently urged for remote work to be adopted to the “maximum extent” throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

“Those who have been working from home so far should continue to do so,” said MTI. “Employees should only come into the office when demonstrably needed.”

This only applies to employees who need access to specialised systems/equipment that cannot be accessed from home, or to complete a contract or transaction that is legally required to be completed in person and on-site.

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