SINGAPORE: Employers who do not make facilities available for members of staff to work from home where reasonable could be jailed or fined, under changes to the Infectious Diseases Act.

An addition to the Act published in the Government Gazette on Thursday (Apr 2) lays out the penalties employers face for not directing staff to work from home where possible or not implementing safe distancing measures at work, among others.

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

On Tuesday, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said companies that do not allow telecommuting wherever possible might face stop-work orders or other penalties.

She added that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) plans to have more than 100 enforcement officers conduct checks on companies.

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

WORKING FROM HOME AND SAFE DISTANCING

Every company must provide the facilities necessary for every employee to work from home during this period, the addition to the Act read. 

They must also direct employees to work from home unless it is “not reasonably practicable to do so”.

Those who are found guilty of not doing so can be fined not more than S$10,000, jailed for a maximum of six months or both.

For those who must go to work, employees must be grouped and must arrive at their place of work at different times. They must not all arrive and leave the workplace at the same time, the update said.

This is to avoid or minimise physical interaction between workers from different groups.

Employers should also take “reasonable steps” to ensure there is at least 1m between people at the workplace.

These measures should be applied to areas in the workplace where a queue or crowd might form such as a pantry, waiting area or room.

READ: Singapore reports 4th death from COVID-19, a 68-year-old Indonesian national

For visitors to the workplace such as those who deliver or receive goods, they must not all arrive “at the same time” and they should not remain there for a longer period than necessary.

Anyone who is unwell or have symptoms must report this to their employer immediately.

All organised events or activities that involve interaction between workers or between workers and visitors must be cancelled or postponed, that is unless the activity is “critical to the operations of the employer’s or principal’s organisation”, or if it is to provide professional or vocational training for workers.

Activities during which “workers are provided education by an educational institution” can carry on, the update added.

Anyone who is found guilty of not following the measures can be fined up to S$10,000, jailed for up to six months or both.

NATURAL VENTILATION

Occupiers of the workplace must also allow “natural ventilation” during working hours “as far as reasonably practicable”, according to the Act. 

Anyone entering the place of work must have their body temperature taken. Contact details should also be kept. Those who are febrile or show symptoms must be refused entry to the workplace.

If someone falls sick while they are working, they should be given a face mask to wear and be asked to leave work immediately.

“If the individual is not able to immediately leave the workplace, isolate the individual,” the Act stated.

Staff members who display symptoms must not go to work. If they have been told to stay away from the workplace, they should do so or face similar penalties, it added. 

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

“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.  

MOM estimated that for companies in the Central Business District, only 40 per cent of workers were telecommuting, Ms Teo had said.

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