SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has issued 129 stop-work orders to workplaces that were found to neglect safe distancing measures.

MOM has conducted more than 850 workplace inspections since Mar 23. Aside from the stop-work orders, it has also served 260 remedial orders, the ministry said in response to CNA’s queries on Thursday (Apr 2). 

More than half of the orders served included improving work from home arrangements, it said. 

READ: Dormitory operators required to adopt additional measures to minimise risk of COVID-19 transmission: MOM

Stop-work orders require companies to cease operations until they rectify their processes. Under remedial orders, workplaces must take corrective action but are allowed to continue their activities. 

According to Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Act, the penalties for not complying with a stop-work order are a maximum fine of S$500,000 and an additional fine of S$20,000 for each day of the continued offence. Failure to comply may also result in a jail sentence of up to 12 months. 

Those who ignore a remedial order face a fine of up to S$50,000 and S$5,000 for each day of continued offence and/or a maximum of 12 months’ imprisonment. 

Office inspections focused on whether employers implemented work from home arrangements – when employees were still working in offices, even though they could perform their duties and access corporate systems and information from home, MOM said. 

“In such instances, we have issued a remedial order to the company to get their staff to work from home, as far as reasonably practicable,” the ministry said. 

Besides offices, MOM said it also inspected factories and construction sites to ensure there were measures in place to protect workers unable to work from home.

Employers who do not make facilities available for members of staff to work from home where reasonably practicable, could be jailed or fined, according to an addition to the Infectious Diseases Act published in the Government Gazette on Wednesday (Apr 1).

READ: COVID-19: Jail, fines for employers who do not allow employees to work from home where possible

The flexible work arrangements are aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore.

This message was highlighted previously on Tuesday by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who pointed out that companies that do not allow telecommuting wherever possible might face stop-work orders or other penalties.

MOM plans to have more than 100 enforcement officers conduct checks on companies, she added. 

READ: COVID-19: Firms that do not allow telecommuting where ‘reasonably practicable’ may be issued stop-work order, says Josephine Teo

The Government will take a measured approach to enforcing the penalties by first looking at the firm’s specific circumstances, said Mrs Teo. 

“If the company is really not taking it seriously at all, then we have no choice and will not hesitate to issue a stop-work order,” she said, adding that the duration of such an order would depend on factors such as the severity of the case.  

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