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Supporting Remote Employees in Singapore during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Companies around the world are now facing the challenge of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), and how it may affect both their domestic and international operations.  Naturally, a chief concern is the health, safety and well-being of employees, and this is especially true for remote employees working abroad, who do not have HR or management staff in the country.

Singapore has seen a recent increase in confirmed Coronavirus cases and if you have remote employees in that country, you may want to know the specific steps to take to assist your remote workers.  Every country has their own health protocols and procedures, and Singapore’s public health and information system is well developed to ensure both prevention and management of this disease.

As of February 7th, Singapore has put together a list of workplace guidelines under the current DORSCON Orange risk assessment level.  These are designed to support employee health in traditional office environments, but many of the recommendations can be applied equally to remote employees, whether working from home or in a shared workspace.

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Client Case: Remote Employee Health Guidelines in Singapore

Shield GEO works through local employers of record in each country, and our local partner in Singapore reached out to us for recommendations and actions to help reduce the risk of employees catching the Coronavirus.

As of February 24th, here are the steps that we advised, based on Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) guidelines:

  1. Inform Employees of Precautionary Measures and Resources

One advantage for remote employees in a health situation like this is that they don’t have daily exposure to other co-workers and can minimize outside contact more easily. 

However, there are still precautions recommended by the MOM that can be taken by remote employees and their families to protect their health including:

  • Take their own temperature twice a day
  • Check for respiratory symptoms
  • Regular handwashing
  • Maintain regular cleaning and disinfecting of work and living spaces
  • Contact a doctor if symptoms arise and persist

Further, the MOM website has an “Updates on COVID-19” page and dashboard, where employees can monitor advisories, case summaries and other useful information.  The World Health Organization also has a webpage dedicated to the virus and how employees can protect themselves and have questions answered about the nature of the virus. 

  1. Request a Travel Declaration

Another step that Shield GEO has taken is to request mandatory travel declarations from every Singapore employee to confirm if they had recently been to the high-risk origin of the virus in Hubei, China.  If so, they would be given a quarantine notice and be asked to follow local protocols in Singapore.  Any employee that is served with a Home Quarantine Order will be considered to be on paid hospitalization leave (up to 60 days).  The Singapore government pays employers SGD100 per day for employees under quarantine.

  1. Be Aware of Leave Entitlements and Medical Benefits

Another effect of the virus may be for remote employees who are not ill or quarantined, but need to care for children and family members who may not be able to attend day care, school or other functions due to public health closures in certain areas. 

Even remote employees accustomed to working at home might find it difficult to be productive and focused while also caring for others.  In that case, the MOM recommends that employees be allowed to use their statutory leave entitlements in order to care for their family at home.  If the employee has used up their leave entitlements, employers are being asked to consider additional paid time off or advance paid leave to be used currently.

For any employees requesting a leave of absence (LOA) the Singapore government will pay employers SGD100 per day during the LOA as special compensation during the course of the Coronavirus outbreak.

In addition to any employer medical and insurance coverage, employers have a statutory obligation to pay the cost of any consultation with a doctor if the employee is ill.

Do you need more information about Singapore?

The highly specific and transparent approach by the MOM to protect the health of Singapore employees should be encouraging to you as an employer.  However, you may have more questions such as:

If an employee is using a shared workspace should they be encouraged and supported to work from home until the virus is contained?

How can an employer’s HR department monitor their employees abroad to ensure they taking the best steps possible to protect their health?

What are the statutory rules about unpaid time off for employees who may have used up their leave and medical entitlements?

These are the types of questions that Shield answers for our clients, in the areas of statutory entitlements, employment rules and supporting remote employees.  We make international employment simple.

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