Employers are encouraged to make a "concerted push" to get their unvaccinated employees vaccinated as soon as possible. In support of this, employers may check their company's vaccination rate via a new web service from 25 October 2021.
On 23 Oct 2021, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced that only employees who are vaccinated, or have recovered from COVID-19 within 270 days, can return to the workplace from 1 Jan 2022.
As for unvaccinated employees, they will be required to have a negative Pre-Event Testing (PET)1 result valid for the duration that employees are required to be present at the workplace. The costs of the PET are to be borne by the employee.
Following this, the tripartite partners (Ministry of Manpower, Singapore National Employers Federation, National Trades Union Congress) have issued an updated advisory to provide guidance to employers on adjusting their HR policies, in consultation with unions if applicable, for implementation from 1 Jan 2022. The updates are as follows:
Work arrangements for unvaccinated employees
For unvaccinated employees whose work can be performed at home, employers may allow them to continue to do so, but "such working arrangements remain the employers’ prerogative." The tripartite partners noted: "As the vast majority of vaccinated employees eventually return to the workplace more frequently, the prolonged absence of the unvaccinated employees from the workplace may affect their individual performance as well as negatively impact team or organisational performance."
For employees whose work cannot be performed from home, employers can:
- Allow them to continue in the existing job with PET done at employees’ own expense and own time (i.e. outside of working hours); or
- Redeploy them to suitable jobs which can be done from home if such jobs are available, with remuneration commensurate with the responsibilities of the alternative jobs; or
- Place them on no-pay leave, or, as a last resort, terminate their employment (with notice) in accordance with the employment contract. If termination of employment is due to employees’ inability to be at the workplace to perform their contracted work, such termination of employment would not be considered as wrongful dismissal.
Special consideration for unvaccinated employees who are medically ineligible for vaccines under the National Vaccination Programme (NVP)
Employers should consider the following measures for employees who are certified to be medically ineligible for vaccines under the NVP:
- Allow the employees to work from home if they are able to do so. Their absence from the workplace should not affect assessment of their performance; or
- Redeploy the employees to suitable jobs which can be done from home if such jobs are available, with remuneration commensurate with the responsibilities of the alternative jobs; or
- Exempt the employees from the workforce vaccination measures above if they need to work on-site.
Special consideration for pregnant employees
- Pregnant employees are also strongly encouraged to be vaccinated with the vaccines under the NVP as soon as possible. Pregnant women who delay vaccination are at higher risks of complications should they contract COVID-19 during pregnancy, the tripartite partners stressed, and they may wish to consult their obstetrician to discuss benefits and risks.
- Employers are strongly encouraged to give special consideration to the needs and concerns of their pregnant employees and should consider similar support measures for them as per the measures above for employees certified medically ineligible for vaccines under the NVP .
Call-to-action for Employers
According to the tripartite partners, the new vaccination measures follow data by the government which shows that 70% of firms have attained 100% vaccine coverage for their workforce, and 96% of the total workforce has been vaccinated. However, there still remains around 113,000 employees who have yet to be vaccinated - of which only a small portion are medically ineligible for vaccination.
Of these, around 14,000 are aged 60 and above, and are at a very high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 infection, the partners stated. Thus,
- The remaining 30% of employers are "encouraged to make a concerted push to get their unvaccinated employees to be vaccinated as soon as possible." In support of this, companies may check their company’s vaccination rate via a new web service (Corppass required), with effect from 25 October 2021.
- All employers may ask employees for their vaccination status for the purpose of planning deployment at the workplace. Employers may also require employees to produce proof of vaccination before reporting to the workplace. Employees who refuse to do so would be treated as unvaccinated.
- Employers should facilitate vaccination by granting paid time-off to employees for their vaccination (including vaccination booster shots), and additional paid sick leave (beyond contractual or statutory requirement) in the rare event that the employee experiences a vaccine-related adverse reaction.
The remaining 4% of unvaccinated employees are "encouraged to go for vaccination as soon as possible to avoid any impact to their jobs and livelihoods."
These workplace safety measures are amongst one of many updates announced. For information on other matters covered, click here: How Singapore continues to manage COVID: Home recovery, concessions for the medically-ineligible, and more
1 Unvaccinated employees may proceed to MOH-approved COVID-19 test providers for PET.