SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM), together with the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation, on Monday (Mar 16) issued an advisory for employers on how they should handle their employees’ travel movements in response to COVID-19.

The advisory follows an announcement by the Ministry of Health on Mar 15, advising the public to defer all non-essential travel to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 infection while overseas.

READ: COVID-19: Stay-home notices for all travellers entering Singapore from ASEAN countries, Japan, UK, Switzerland

It seeks to guide employers on setting “clear HR policies” regarding the treatment of employees who travel outside Singapore, whether for work or otherwise, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

This could include a company-imposed leave of absence (LOA) upon the employee’s return (not exceeding 14 days), said the advisory, which added that employers should communicate the HR policies to employees before implementing them.

Unionised companies should consult the unions when developing their HR policies, it added.

PROVIDE ADDITIONAL LEAVE IF TRAVEL FOR WORK CANNOT BE AVOIDED

For work-related travel plans, employers should review and defer all non-essential travel, said the advisory. They should instead explore alternative ways of business communications such as video-conferencing.

However if work-related travel cannot be avoided, employers must ensure that their employees’ health is adequately protected in accordance with MOH guidelines. 

In addition, employers are expected to provide additional paid leave to the employee concerned, said the advisory. This is to cover:

  • Quarantine or self-isolation period imposed by the destination country on the employee;
  • Delay in employee’s return to Singapore, due to circumstances such as flight availability, need for MOM’s pre-entry approval to allow for orderly return of foreign employees, etc;
  • Mandatory Stay-Home Notice (SHN) or company-LOA that the employee may be required to serve upon his return to Singapore.

Employers should also accede to employees’ request not to take on work-related travel, said the advisory, adding that employees should not be penalised for making such requests.

NON-WORK RELATED TRAVEL

Employers should also remind employees of MOH’s travel advisory to defer all non-essential travel plans to all countries, said the authorities.

Employers should also obtain a travel declaration from their employees on whether they have any upcoming overseas travel plans to – including, but not limited to – the affected areas covered by mandatory stay-home notice requirements.

READ: 17 new COVID-19 infections in Singapore in largest single-day increase to date

If an employee still goes overseas for non-work related and non-essential travel, employers “may require the employee to use his own annual leave entitlements” to cover the duration of any mandatory stay-home notice, leave of absence or any extended period of travel in the destination country.

If the employee does not have enough annual leave, the employer may allow the employee to take advance leave, or put the employee on no-pay leave, said the advisory. 

“Employers are reminded to be fair and apply the relevant HR policies to all employees,” it said.

It also stressed that the Leave of Absence Support Programme – which was extended to businesses and self-employed persons affected by the stay-home notice requirements – is not applicable for those who have travelled after Mar 15.

“For avoidance of doubt, the LOA/SHN Support Programme for employers and self-employed persons will not be applicable for travel (work-related or non-work related) that commenced after Mar 15, 2020,” it said.

“In other words, employers and self-employed persons will be eligible for the S$100 daily support when affected workers serve out mandatory SHN requirements if their travel out of Singapore commenced on or before Mar 15, 2020.”

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