MOM penalises firms for safe distancing lapses

More than 130 remedial orders were served to companies for ‘insufficient’ work from home arrangements

MOM penalises firms for safe distancing lapses

Singapore’s Ministry of Ministry (MOM) have issued more than 130 remedial orders to companies for ‘insufficient’ work from home arrangements.

MOM have inspected more than 850 workplaces as part of operations to enforce safe distancing amidst COVID-19. They served 129 stop-work orders and 260 remedial orders to employers with ‘weak’ measures.

The stop-work orders and remaining remedial orders were for safe distancing lapses.

“For offices in particular, our inspections focused on compliance in implementing work from home arrangements,” MOM said. “We observed cases where employees were still working in offices, when they could perform their duties and access relevant corporate systems and information from home.”

In such cases, MOM has issued a remedial order to the company to get its staff to work from home, as far as possible.

READ MORE: Work from home policy: MOM reveals penalties

MOM’s advisory on safe distancing measures
- Work from home: Where employees can perform their work by telecommuting from home, the employer must ensure that they do so.

MOM urged employers to give special attention to vulnerable employees, like older employees, pregnant employees, and employees who have underlying medical conditions, and enable them to work from home.

Employers can also consider temporarily redeploying these employees to another role within the company that is suitable for working from home.

Some measures companies can take is to review work processes and provide the necessary IT equipment to employees.

- For those who can’t work from home: For job roles or functions where employees cannot work from home, such as frontline operations and fieldwork, employers must take strict safe distancing measures.

For this group of people, employers must take precautions:

  1. Reduce need for and duration of physical interactions. Minimise in-person meetings and use tele-conferencing instead. If a meeting is ‘critical’, employers need to limit number of attendees and the duration.
  2. Ensure a safe distance of at least 1m apart. Employers should mark out clearly the space between work stations, for instance. Seats in meeting rooms should also be spaced apart. This applies to all interactions in the office.
  3. Stagger work hours. Employers must implement staggered working hours to reduce possible congregation of employees at common spaces such as entrances/exits. Timings of lunch and other breaks must also be staggered. Where possible, reporting and ending times should not coincide with peak-hour travel, especially if employees use public transport.
  4. Defer or cancel all events. Formal or informal/social workplace activities.
  5. Implement shift or split team arrangements. Employers should consider clear separation of employees on different shifts or split teams, such as stepping up cleaning of common areas during shift or split team changeovers.

“MOM will step up enforcement in the coming weeks,” said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo. “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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