How to avoid getting fined in the changing 'normal'

The rules keep changing in the pandemic

How to avoid getting fined in the changing 'normal'

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) fined over 11 companies in May for breaching the latest safe management measures, including failure to implement work-from-home arrangements for employees.

While many have been eager to get back to the office this year, the changing COVID situation has forced companies to quickly return to making working from home as the default. Any plans to get more employees back in the office were quickly slashed due to new rules under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).

Read more: Will we finally get to return to offices this year?

Due to fears that Singapore’s current wave is “likely more dangerous” than the spread last year, the government has put in place strict measures to keep residents safe. This includes increased inspections on workplaces to ensure compliance and a new declaration process to monitor office capacity levels.

By May 28, employers are required to declare how many staffers have to work on-site. If there are any changes to that number, employers must update the info accordingly. However, MOM made clear that employers must ensure that those who can work from home are allowed to do so – if not, penalties will ensue.

“Enforcement actions will still be taken against the employer, if workers who are able to work from home are found to be working onsite, even if the total number of workers onsite are at or below the declared number of workers,” wrote MOM.

Read more: How to help staff feel safe and comfortable at work

With the rules constantly changing for workplaces amidst the evolving COVID situation, how can companies avoid getting in trouble in Singapore? Employment lawyer Thomas Choo, partner at Clyde & Co Clasis Singapore suggested that employers subscribe to information feeds by the local authorities like their Telegram or WhatsApp channels.

“Policies are pretty fluid and it will change from time to time, so I think it’s definitely important for HR to make sure that they are aware of any changes which could affect certain categories of employees – including in terms of their working arrangement,” he told HRD.

And if your rush to get back in the office stems from a worry over employee productivity, Choo advised that leaders practised a little empathy and trust during the crisis. “Obviously from a leader’s perspective, everyone wants productivity, especially during this period,” he said. “[But] I think you need to understand the challenges with working and the work-life balance associated with that.

“So, if you understand that, it will definitely help them navigate this changing model. [Also] trust your employees to run with it and they will deliver.”

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