1. Are companies that have resumed operations required to ensure that their employees work from home?
From 5 April 2021, more employees may return to the workplace to better support in-person collaboration and business operations. Employers must ensure that no more than 75% of employees who are able to work from home are at the workplace at any point in time. Nonetheless, employers are encouraged to support as many employees in working from home as possible.
This is to limit employees’ exposure at the workplace. Return to the workplace can either be initiated by the employee and agreed upon with the employer, or directed by the employer. This will help to limit the number of workers exposed at the workplace at any point in time, and reduce crowding in common areas e.g. pantries, toilets, lifts.
Work-from-home measures should be implemented in a sustainable manner that enables employees to maintain work-life harmony while continuing to meet business needs. The tripartite advisory on mental well-being at workplaces sets out practical guidance on measures that employers can adopt to support their employees’ mental well-being.
Enforcement checks will be conducted and actions will be taken against businesses for non-compliance.
2. Is there a minimum percentage or number of workers that employers must place on work-from-home arrangements?
From 5 April 2021, employers must ensure that no more than 75% of employees who are able to work from home are at the workplace at any point in time.
However, there is no limit on the proportion of an individual employee’s working time that can be spent at the workplace. Employers are nonetheless encouraged to continue to allow employees to work from home where possible. This will help to limit the number of employees exposed at the workplace at any point in time, and reduce crowding in common areas, e.g. pantries, toilets, lifts.
3. Should my employees wear masks at all times? What should I do if my employee has a medical condition?
Everyone should wear a mask at all times, except when eating, drinking, consuming medication or engaging in strenuous physical exercise.
However, if your employee has severe medical conditions, they can wear a face shield in lieu of a mask.
4. What should I do if my employees are unwilling to work from home because their home is not conducive for work?
The overarching objective of these regulations is to reduce physical interactions in order to prevent spread of COVID-19. Employers can consider different ways to implement working arrangements that comply with the Safe Management Measures for the workplace, while taking business and employee preferences into account.
5. As most of my employees are either doing frontline work or fieldwork operations, it is not feasible for me to rearrange the work such that they can work-from-home. Will I be penalised for not providing such work arrangements?
Employers must demonstrate the business or operational reasons why the workers working at the workplace are unable to work-from-home despite review and redesign of work processes. Our inspectors will assess the efforts put in by companies to implement work-from-home arrangements based on the practicality of whether the workers can work-from-home given the nature of the job.
For the safety of workers at the workplace, employers should put in place other Safe Management Measures at the workplace (e.g. ensuring safe distancing, ensuring use of SafeEntry, etc.) to provide a safe working environment and minimize risk of further outbreaks.
Special attention should also be paid to vulnerable employees (e.g. persons who are aged 60 and above, and patients who are immunocompromised or have concurrent medical conditions) to enable them to work from home. Employers are encouraged to:
- Enable these employees to work from home.
- Allow them to travel to and from work at off-peak timings.
- Temporarily redeploy them to another role within the company.
- Take other appropriate measures to reduce their exposure to infection risk.
6. Are companies required to ensure staggered start times and implement flexible workplace hours for employees at the workplace?
With more employees back in the office, employers are encouraged to stagger the start times for all employees such that at least half of all employees arrive at the workplace at or after 10am, as far as possible. This would enable more employees to avoid peak-hour travel, especially if employees require the use of public transport. Timings of lunch and other breaks should also be staggered accordingly.
For employees who can work from home but who return to the workplace, employers should also allow for flexible workplace hours. This is not to shorten work hours, but to allow flexibility to reduce the duration spent in the workplace, while also working from home during the day.
To illustrate, employers can allow a proportion of your employees to work in the workplace from 10am to 4pm, and fulfil their remaining work hours from home. Employers can also allow your employees to work from home in the morning, and only return to the workplace in the afternoon, e.g. from 1pm to 5pm, or return to the workplace only for meetings and work from home the rest of the day.
7. Is there a limit on the number of attendees in a physical meeting?
Physical meetings are regarded as work-related events and are allowed to proceed with a cap of 50 physical attendees. They will also be subject to other Safe Management Measures being put in place, depending on the specific premises where the event is being held. Nonetheless, companies should continue to conduct virtual meetings as much as possible.
8. Can employees use the recreational facilities (e.g. gyms, lounges) at the workplace in Phase 2?
Recreational facilities at workplaces will be able to reopen in permitted enterprises, subject to the required Safe Management Measures (e.g. maintaining a distance of at least 2-3 metres from each other when engaging in any sporting activity or physical exercise). When visiting such facilities, employees will still have to comply with the relevant Safe Management Measures put in place for that setting.
9. Can employees use employer-provided recreational facilities which are not located at the workplace?
Access to standalone recreational facilities which are located away from employees’ workplaces will depend on the re-opening plans for relevant permitted enterprises.
These facilities will also be subject to stricter safe management measures (e.g. maintaining a distance of at least 2-3 metres from each other when engaging in any sporting activity or physical exercise).
When visiting such facilities, employees will still have to comply with the relevant safe management measures put in place for that setting.
Yes, work-related events will be allowed to resume at third-party venues, subject to any additional premises owners’ safe management policies.
11. What should I do if my employees are unwilling to work from home because their home is not conducive for work?
Yes, these can be conducted up to 30 participants at a time, or a lower number subject to the size of the premises and the need to maintain safe distance.
The prevailing Safe Management Measures must be adhered to, including:
- The ceremony, including religious prayers, should be kept to as short a duration as possible. Participants present should leave the ceremony immediately after it ends.
- All individuals present must wear a face mask at all times.
- Individuals must observe 1 metre safe distance between themselves and others.
- No reception or on-site meals are allowed before, during or after the ceremony.
- Singing and other live performances are not permitted during the ceremony.
- Premises where the ceremony is held should be well-ventilated. Premises that have reduced air circulation (e.g. air-conditioned prayer hall) should, where possible, open doors and windows to naturally ventilate the space after use.