1. It was announced on 2 May that some of the tighter circuit breaker measures will be progressively eased in the coming weeks, does this mean law practices can resume regular business activities?
Following the announcement on 2 May 2020, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced on 19 May 2020 that Circuit Breaker measures will be gradually eased from 2 June 2020, and businesses will be allowed to resume activities in a phased manner. Legal services are included in the list of businesses (accurate as of 19 May 2020) that may operate from 2 June 2020.
Apart from MinLaw’s “Advisory for Law Practices on Elevated Safe Distancing Measures – Gradual Resumption of Business Activities” issued on 20 May 2020, you may refer to MTI’s advisory on the gradual resumption of business activities in phases at Resumption of activities from 2 June 2020. The list of business and facilities that are allowed to resume operations can be found at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/permittedlist/. This list will be updated as more activities and services resume.
2. Is it necessary for my law practice to apply for an exemption to be able to operate from 2 June onwards?
Law practices do not need to apply for an exemption before resuming operations. MTI will grant law practices a class exemption to resume business, subject to your law practice’s implementation of Safe Management Measures.
Law practices must submit your manpower details via the GoBusiness portal within two weeks of the date of resumption of operations. Law practices may submit your manpower details using the “Permissions and Manpower Declaration” button on GoBusiness from 26 May onwards. Law practices are reminded to adopt telecommuting to the maximum extent and employees should only come into the office when demonstratively needed, eg, to access specialised systems.
3. Will my law practice be receiving a notification to confirm that my practice is able to resume operations at our office premises on 2 June 2020?
There will not be any additional notification from MTI to inform law practices that you are able to resume business activities at your office premises from 2 June 2020. Business entities that are unsure if they can operate can check their SSIC against the list of permitted services that can resume operations on 2 June 2020 at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/guides/permittedserviceslist.pdf.
4. Is it necessary for our law practice to adopt Safe Management Measures?
Since 12 May 2020, all businesses allowed to operate during the Circuit Breaker period have been required to implement Safe Management Measures. This includes law practices operating during the Circuit Breaker period under General Exemptions.
Law practices resuming business activities at your office premises from 2 June 2020, must comply with the requirements for Safe Management Measures before resuming workplace activities, in order to provide a safe working environment for your employees and prevent transmission at the workplace. These measures must be implemented in a sustainable manner for as long as necessary. Strict checks will be conducted, and law practices that do not provide a safe workplace for your employees will have your operations suspended until you are able to do so.
Law practices may refer to the requirements on implementation of Safe Management Measures on “Requirements for Safe Management Measures at the workplace after Circuit Breaker period”.
5. Is there a minimum percentage or number of employees that law practices must place on work from home arrangements with the resumption of business activities from 2 June 2020?
The reduction of physical interaction, together with other Safe Management Measures at the workplace, is necessary to ensure a safe working environment and minimise the spread of COVID-19. Employers should adopt telecommuting to the maximum as far as reasonably practicable. The proportion of employees that are able to telecommute will vary in different workplaces and sectors due to differing operational requirements. The onus is on the employers to show that they have made reasonable effort to facilitate working from home.
6. Are my employees and visitors required to wear a mask at all times at the workplace?
For general office workplaces, employers must ensure that employees and visitors wear a mask at all times at the workplace, except during activities that require masks to be removed such as when eating or drinking. Supplementary personal protective equipment is encouraged, whenever relevant. This is in addition to the other Safe Management Measures that must be in place at the workplace.
When attending remote court hearings via video or teleconferencing, lawyers may remove their masks to speak, while observing other Safe Management Measures.
7. Pertaining to service of court process and documents, will the court process servers of law practices be able to carry out services of process on parties including individuals at their residences or offices?
The service of court processes and documents is permissible, including delivery by hand where necessary, as process servers will be providing an essential service of the law practice, which is a permitted business. The process servers should observe safe distancing and take all other necessary precautions required under the Control Order at all times.
8. Will clients of law practices be able to be physically present at the offices of law practices for the purpose of meetings, notarization, signing of wills, contracts, mortgages, instruments of conveyancing and other legal documents?
Physical attendance at the office by clients of law practices is permitted only where their physical presence is necessary, such as to complete a contract or transaction that is legally required to be completed in person. Employees of the law practice and clients are required to observe Safe Management Measures requirements at all times.