With Singapore's month-long circuit breaker measures coming into effect, enforcement checks found that 10 businesses had remained open despite providing non-essential services. They have since been asked to cease their operations.

This news emerges from Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), who conducted checks on the suspension of activities at workplace premises and safe distancing measures on close to 10,700 F&B, retail and tourism businesses across Singapore on 7 April 2020.

The businesses asked to shutter down include TCM retail establishments, wellness and beauty product shops, money changers, mobile phone retail shops, consumer electronics retailers, kitchenware, and stationery shops.

In a statement, ESG and STB said: "Verbal warnings were issued, and if these businesses continue to flout the rules, ESG and STB will impose fines, and suspend their operations."

The two institutions have deployed over 200 safe distancing ambassadors and staff to conduct these enforcement checks.

ESG checked on over 9,750 F&B and retail establishments across 67 shopping malls, while STB checked on more than 920 tourism-related establishments. The majority of these establishments complied with the elevated safe distancing measures. Common infractions found included a lack of queue markings and poor crowd management, especially during meal times.

Under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act passed in Parliament on 7 April 2020, first-time offenders will face a fine of up to S$10,000, imprisonment of up to six months, or both. Subsequent offences may face a fine of up to S$20,000, imprisonment of up to twelve months, or both.

ALSO READ: All HR and employers should know about Singapore’s circuit breaker measures

In another reminder to employers, Amarjit Kaur, Partner, Withers KhattarWong LLP advises employers to abide by evolving containment measures announced by the Singapore Government, commentary below:

Employers should monitor and abide by rapidly evolving containment and border control measures and ensure that impacted employees understand and comply with Stay Home Notices (SHN) and Quarantine Orders (QO) issued to them.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) rigorously monitors adherence to SHN and QO through GPS tracking and regular check-ins. Violation of SHN and QO conditions can lead to severe consequences for both employee and employer, including cancellation of work passes / permanent residency, permanent disbarment from working in Singapore, and suspension of employer's work pass privileges.

Employees should be warned that the provision of false information or obstructing contact tracing constitutes an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act, punishable with a fine of up to S$10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 6 months.

Employers should implement travel policies to outline the treatment of leave for employees who travel for work or personal reasons.

In light of the 18 March 2020 Advisory, employers should defer all travel. For unavoidable work-related travel, employers must provide additional paid leave to the employee to cover (i) quarantine or self-isolation periods imposed by destination countries; (ii) mandatory SHN or company-imposed Leave of Absence (LOA) to be served upon return to Singapore; and/or (iii) delays in return to Singapore due to flight availability, MOM's pre-entry approval etc.

Employers should also accommodate employee's requests to be exempted from business travel in light of the pandemic, without penalising them.

If employees insist on traveling abroad for non-work reasons in contravention of evolving travel advisories issued by the Government, employers may require employees to use their existing annual leave entitlements to cover the duration of SHN or LOA, or to utilise advance leave / take unpaid leave.

For travel commencing after 15 March 2020, the LOA/SHN Support Programme of S$100 daily support for employers will no longer apply.

Employers should take note of the March 2020 revision of the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment.

With effect from 12 March 2020, employers must notify the MOM if they implement any cost-cutting measures that impact employees' salaries. Companies that fail to inform the MOM will be investigated and may face penalties. This measure allows the MOM to scrutinise if companies conduct cost-saving exercises fairly and responsibly, and to prevent downstream pay disputes.

This notification requirement is in addition to the pre-existing mandatory requirement for companies with 10 or more employees to notify the MOM if they retrench five or more employees in a one-year period.

This is a timely juncture to remind employers that any retrenchment exercises or cost cutting measures implemented should be conducted in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.

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