Singapore exited its circuit breaker period on 1 June 2020 (the "Circuit Breaker Period"), and embarked on a phased approach to the resumption of activities.
Phase One, which saw some, but not all, resumption of activities, ended on 11.59 pm, 19 June 2020, and Singapore has now entered Phase Two from 19 June 2020.
During Phase Two, more activities will resume, including the re-opening of retail units and F&B outlets, subject to the relevant safe distancing measures. However, working from home remains the default mode of working during Phase Two, and employees whose functions can be done remotely must continue to do so. Employees should go into the office only where there is no other alternative. If telecommuting is not possible, the safe management measures as released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Manpower ("MOM") as detailed in our earlier client update on 11 May 2020 must be adhered to (the "Safe Management Measures").
The MOM has updated its advisory as of 1 June 2020, and the safe management measures are summarised below:
- System to implement Safe Management Measures at workplaces
A system would need to be established to implement the Safe Management Measures. The system would need to provide a detailed monitoring plan to ensure compliance with the Safe Management Measures, risk mitigation and to expeditiously resolve any identified non-compliance issues.
- Appointment of a Safe Management Officer (the “SMO”)
A SMO should be appointed to assist in the implementation, coordination and monitoring of the Safe Management Measures system, and employers should provide such appointed SMO with adequate instructions, information and supervision as is necessary for them to fulfil their duties. For unionised companies, union leaders or workplace safety and health officers could be appointed as the SMO.
The SMO will have to inter alia (i) coordinate implementation of the Safe Management Measures, (ii) conduct compliance inspections and checks at all times, (iii) remedy any non-compliance and (iv) keep a record of inspections and checks and corrective actions and make the same available upon request by a Government inspector.
- Reduction of physical interaction and ensuring safe distancing at work
Employers must ensure that employees who can telecommute continue to do so. Employers are encouraged to review work processes including (i) to provide the necessary equipment to employees to enable telecommuting, (ii) conducting all internal and external meetings virtually, (iii) cancel or defer all events or activities that involve close and prolonged contact amongst participants, e.g. conferences, seminars and exhibitions and even social gatherings such as eating in groups during meal breaks and (iv) paying special attention to vulnerable employees such as pregnant employees including redeploying them to other roles more suited for telecommuting.
For jobs where employees cannot work from home such as manufacturing, construction or frontline operations, employers should ensure (i) staggered working hours including to enable employees to avoid peak hour travel for start and end times and implementing other systems to reduce congregation of employees at common spaces such as different entrances or exits where staggered work hours and break times are not possible, (ii) shift or split team arrangements where there is no cross-deployment or interaction between employees in different shifts, teams or worksites, even outside of work and (iii) reducing the requirement for physical touchpoints in the work place eg swipe scanners or frequent disinfecting if physical touchpoints cannot be avoided.
In a situation where physical interaction is required, safe distancing should be practiced, such as by ensuring a clear physical spacing of at least 1 metre between individuals.
- Supporting contact tracing requirements and controlling access
Employers should encourage all employees to download the TraceTogether app to help in contact tracing. In addition, employers must use the SafeEntry app to record the entry and exit of every person who enters the workplace. Personnel who are unwell must be refused entry to the workplace.
- Personal Protective Equipment
All personnel onsite, including employees and visitors, must wear masks and other personal protective equipment (as the case may be) at the workplace at all times. Employers are required to ensure that they have sufficient masks to provide to employees.
Employees should also be encouraged to practice good personal hygiene, such as washing of hands regularly.
- Increased Cleaning Protocols
Common areas should cleaned regularly such as between meetings or seatings, especially areas where there is high human contact such as lifts, restrooms and pantries.
Cleaning and disinfecting agents should also be provided at designated areas.
- Health Checks
Regular temperature screening (at least two times daily) should be conducted for all onsite employees and visitors. Travel history and health declarations, which must be kept for at least 28 days, must also be obtained daily from anyone who enters the workplace. Employers should also ensure that the MOH's prevailing travel advisory is adhered to.
Protocols to manage potential cases should also be put in place, such as by encouraging employees not to clinic-hop and to provide their medical records if they have Covid-19 related systems. Additionally, an employer must also ensure it implements a management plan for suspected cases such as an evacuation plan and also for confirmed cases including vacating, cordoning off and disinfecting the relevant on-site areas. Such protocols and plans should follow the guidelines from the MOM.
The measures summarized above must be explained and provided to employees prior to their return to the workplace with clear signs displayed at the workplace to remind employers and visitors to observe such measures. If unionised, employers should also involve and discuss the proposed arrangements with the union. The MOM has also provided a checklist which employers should consider and ensure compliance with. In addition, sector agencies have also issued guidelines in relation to specific work place settings or to address sector requirements, and these should be adhered to if relevant.
Employers are urged to comply with the guidelines above, as the MOM, the MOH and other sector agencies have the right to take action against errant employers, including the cessation of operations and enforcement. In addition, under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act (No. 14 of 2020), failure to comply with the Safe Management Measures is an offence, and can attract a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 6 months jail, or both. Repeated non-compliance will be subject to fines of up to $20,000 or jail of up to 12 months, or both. If the Safe Management Measures are not implemented well, tighter measures which may affect the economy and people's livelihood may have to be reintroduced.