1. What are the key changes for Safe Management Measures at the workplace that will take effect from 5 April 2021?
The revised WFH requirement is that no more than 75% of employees who can WFH can be at the workplace at any point in time, from 50% previously. There is no longer a limit on the proportion of an individual employee’s working time that can be spent at the workplace. The mandatory split team requirement will also be removed.
Employer-organised social activities will be allowed, subject to the same rules as the community; i.e. gatherings of no more than 8 persons (and no multiple groups of 8 persons). Team bonding activities, for instance, will be allowed but only to a group of 8 persons. There is no change to the current provision for work-related events such as townhalls and workplan seminars, which remains capped at 50 persons.
2. Is it possible for my business to resume operations earlier if I have implemented all Safe Management Measures at my workplace?
To prevent the re-emergence of community cases, we will need to open the economy gradually, and not all at once. In general, sectors that allow us to trade with the world and access critical supplies will start first. Sectors that attract high traffic and social interactions will have to wait and put in place additional safe measures before restarting progressively.
You can resume business operations only if your company falls under MTI’s list of activities and services that can resume operations, and your company has implemented all required Safe Management Measures at your workplace.
3. Are Safe Management Measures mandatory, and what enforcement actions will MOM take against businesses that do not implement it?
MOM and sector agencies will take calibrated enforcement actions based on the areas of non-compliance found. For workplaces that severely lack Safe Management Measures, we will direct employers to stop operations at the workplace. Employers will have to take steps to ensure that Safe Management Measures are in place before operations can resume.
Under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, failure to comply with Safe Management Measures is punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of up to 6 months, or both. Repeated non-compliance is punishable with a fine of up to $20,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.
4. Who is empowered to enforce the requirements and how can I verify the identity of enforcement officers inspecting my workplace?
Enforcement action may be taken by any of the following persons under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act:
- A police officer;
- A Health Officer appointed under section 4(1)(a) or (b) of the Infectious Diseases Act;
- A public officer;
- An officer of a statutory body;
- An auxiliary police officer; and
- An employee of a prescribed institution under the Infectious Diseases Act.
You can verify the identity of enforcement officers via their authority cards or their public service identification cards.
5. Where can I find more guidance on implementing Safe Management Measures in the workplace?
You may refer to the Checklist of Safe Management Measures at the Workplace for Resumption of Business Activities here, for an overview of the requirements that must be fulfilled prior to resuming business activities at the workplace. For more information, please refer here.
Unionised companies are also encouraged to engage their unions on such arrangements.
6. We have received two advisories, one from MOM and another from the sector agency. Which one do we follow?
The advisory on Safe Management Measures and the accompanying checklist issued by MOM are for workplaces in general. Where there may be sector-specific considerations, companies should also refer to the sector-specific advisories issued, over and above MOM’s advisory.
7. My employees do not have a specific workplace as they are deployed to client’s site to provide goods and services. How can I implement Safe Management Measures?
All employers must implement Safe Management Measures at their workplaces for all employees and contractors.
Companies that have employees deployed to other sites should ensure that their employees comply with the Safe Management Measures put in place at these sites. In fact, some of the Safe Management Measures can be implemented by employers regardless of where employees are deployed, such as health monitoring.
8. My company is unable to adhere to the one metre safe distancing requirement. Can I adopt other protective measures instead (e.g. installing acrylic dividers), in place of the one metre safe distancing requirement?
No. The default is to ensure at least one metre safe distancing between persons at all times. While acrylic dividers or other physical barriers can be adopted alongside the safe distancing requirement to further mitigate droplet transmission risk between persons, they are not meant to be used as a substitute for the safe distancing requirement. Where physical barriers (e.g. acrylic dividers) are used, additional safeguards must be taken to minimise the risk of cross infection (e.g. frequent cleaning and disinfection of dividers to prevent fomite transmission).
9. My office is on a 5-day week. Can all my employees work at the office for 4 days a week, and then work from home for 1 day?
No. From 5 April 2021, you must ensure that at most 75% of employees who are able to work from home are at the workplace at any point in time. You can consider other arrangements that will meet this requirement, for instance:
- Divide your employees into 4 groups, with 1 group working from home for any given week.
- Divide your employees into 4 groups, with a different group working from home for each day Monday to Thursday, and all 4 groups working from home on Friday.
10. Do I need to implement split teams for my employees?
No. From 5 April 2021, split team arrangements are no longer mandatory. Nonetheless, you can continue to adopt such arrangements for business continuity purposes.
11. In an office setting, would leaving an empty desk marked (e.g. with a cross) suffice for safe distancing? For barriers between workstations, are there guidelines for how high they need to be?
Employers must ensure clear physical spacing of at least one metre between persons at all times and demarcate safe physical distances (at least one metre apart) with visual indicators or physical means such as barriers between work stations.
If leaving an empty desk and demarcating clearly with visual indicators allows for at least one metre distancing between employees, such an approach can be considered. For barriers between workstations, while there are no specific height guidelines, the barriers should also facilitate the required safe physical distance of one metre apart.