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What to do if your staff has been to a Wuhan virus affected country or served a quarantine order

Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) has issued an updated travel advisory, in view of the evolving Wuhan coronavirus situation in China and across the region - the first point to note is that business travellers are advised to defer all non-essential travel to Mainland China.

Having said that, if business travel to known affected areas is unavoidable and alternative options such as video-conferencing are not possible, employers should arrange for their employees to consult a doctor for travel health advice prior to travel.

Additionally, for employees whose work is performed in known affected areas, MOH stated: "Employers should ensure that employees are adequately protected or monitored in accordance to MOH guidelines."

Employers are advised to check the MOH website for the latest update on the Wuhan virus situation so that a considered decision can be made on whether to proceed with business travel plans.

Employers have also been asked to adopt the following precautions for all travel purposes:

  • Advise employees to check the list of affected areas on the MOH website before making any non work-related travel plans.
  • Obtain a health and travel declaration from their employees, on whether they have travelled to China recently, or if they have any upcoming travel plans to China.
  • Check and monitor closely the health condition of employees who had been in China in the 14 days before returning to Singapore. Temperature checks should be made twice a day for 14 days upon returning to Singapore. [more details on this below]

What employers need to know about the 14-day monitoring period

During the 14-day monitoring period, employers are encouraged to adopt flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting and teleconferencing to allow the employees to work from home.

If remote working is not possible, employers can consider the following options:

  • Provide paid leave of absence over and above their annual leave. This should be adopted if the travel was work-related;
  • Allow employees to apply for annual leave;
  • Treat employees’ leave of absence as sick leave;
  • Allow employees to apply for no pay leave, for employees who have used up their leave entitlements;
  • Other mutually agreed arrangements.
ALSO READ: Navigating the Wuhan coronavirus: A guide for office-goers and employers

Employers should similarly consider remote working or similar options if their employees need to stay at home due to other reasons relating to the Wuhan virus, e.g. to take care of family members who have travelled to known affected areas.

Guidelines for cases where employees are served a quarantine order

Employees who are served a quarantine order will be deemed to be on paid sick leave, according to the Ministry of Health.

The period of absence from work would be treated as paid hospitalisation leave, as part of the employees’ hospitalisation leave eligibility under their employment contracts, collective agreements or as per the Employment Act.

ALSO READ: Guidelines for employees placed on leave of absence linked to Wuhan virus

The advisory added: "If the affected employee has used up the medical benefits provided for, under the employment contract and/or collective agreement, employers should consider providing medical coverage as the employees concerned may face financial hardship during this time."

Special arrangements for employees in education, healthcare and eldercare sectors

For employees in the healthcare, education and eldercare institutions, MOE, MOH and MSF have announced special arrangements as these workers would come into regular and close contact with people who might be more vulnerable to the virus.

In these sectors, employers should provide a 14-day leave of absence to employees who had been in China in the 14 days before returning to Singapore. For employees of institutions operated by Government or funded by Government, this will be in the form of paid leave of absence.

For other institutions in these sectors not funded by Government, they are strongly encouraged to grant paid leave of absence over and above their employees’ annual leave entitlements.

Note: This article does not provide any medical advice.

Photo / 123RF

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