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An Employer’s Practical Guide to Assuring Safe Return to Workplaces

Practical Guide to Assuring Safe Return to Workplaces
With Singapore still in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, the government has advised employers to implement a safety management system at workplaces as they resume their business operations. This measure aims to safeguard the employee’s well-being and minimise the spread of COVID-19 within the community.

This article shares the primary considerations employers in Singapore should pay attention to when planning to resume their business during COVID-19.

Review Present Employment Contracts And Employee Handbook

Employers should prudently review any present employee handbooks, employment contracts, and other employment policies to determine if there is anything they need to address contractually. For instance, the following are commonly explicitly provided in the country’s employment contract:

  • Employees are compelled to adhere to their employers’ directions: This provision is beneficial when the employers plan to instruct their staff to have their temperature checked or restrict travel.
  • Summary dismissal or termination clauses: These clauses are especially valuable when the employee does not comply with the employers’ directions, refuse to attend work, or is guilty of breaching classified information.

Employers should also evaluate whether they need to establish the work-from-home policy, to cover matters like health and safety protocols, work injuries, working hours and reimbursement of necessary costs, such as ergonomic furniture, phone bills, and printers.

Offer a Safe Working Environment For Their Workers

In addition to the common law that commands duty of care on employers to warrant their employees’ health and safety, the Workplace Safety and Health Act also mandated employers to do so in the workplaces. Some measures they can take to ensure the workplaces are hygienic to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include:

  • Ensure every object and surface in the office is frequently wiped with a disinfectant following the relevant authorities’ cleaning guidelines.
  • Promote thorough and regular handwashing for employees and customers by displaying posters promoting handwashing and placing sanitisers in prominent places around the workplace.
    Improving the workplace’s indoor air quality, ventilation, and filtration system.
  • Implement social distancing measures.
  • Occasionally engage with professional office cleaning services in Singapore for in-depth cleaning, ultrashield and disinfection. Be sure to pick a reputable office disinfection service provider.

Familiarise Themselves With Guidelines, Notices, Regulations, And Advisories Issued By Government Bodies

Various government bodies in Singapore, such as MOH and NEA, provide notices, advisories, regulations, and guidelines for recommended and compulsory measures for employees and employers to abide by.

Employers should make sure employees are aware of these guidelines and adhere to them as much as possible. Since these advisories are regularly updated, employers should always check relevant websites for any changes.

Implement a Safety Management System

Employers should devise a system of safe management strategies that would ensure and support the following:

  • Safe distancing at the workplace and lesser physical interaction
  • Contact tracing requirements satisfaction
  • Good personal hygiene among employees
  • Wearing personal protective equipment at the workplace
  • Health inspections and protocols to handle potential cases
  • Clean and hygienic workplace

Employers should relay these strategies and other measures to their employees.

Postpone Or Cancel Employee’s Trip

Employers should delay or cancel every worker’s travels until further notice. They can implement videoconferencing or teleconferencing in place of physical meetings whenever possible.

Make Sure Personnel Abide By The Legal Obligations That Government Agencies Impose

Legal duties that the government agencies impose include stay-home notice, quarantine order, and leave of absence. Employers should make sure the employees who are on leave or stay-at-home notice can still be contacted when needed. Employers and staff who have breached any legal responsibilities or compulsory measures may be charged with hefty penalties, such as the suspension of the employers’ work pass privileges.

Giving Employees Sick Leave When Necessary

Medical experts in Singapore advised employers to give a five-day sick leave to employees with respiratory symptoms, including runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. Employers are encouraged to consider this leave as part of the worker’s hospitalisation leave as support.

Cooperate With Relevant Health Authorities

Employers should work together with relevant authorities of confirmed cases, such as the MOH’s contact tracing officers. They can do so by giving out the required help and support and identifying workers who have had close contact with people diagnosed with COVID-19.

Upon notification of confirmed cases, employers should close off and vacate the workplace premises where the patient worked. They should also keep other workers updated with the latest developments and console them that proper precautions have been taken to warrant their safety.

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