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askST: New normal, new rules for businesses returning to work from Tuesday

This is the third of a four-part Q&A series on safe management measures for businesses in Singapore.

Covid-19, safe management measures, staggered hours
Employers will need to implement staggered hours when they resume on-site activities, as required under Safe Management Measures. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Q: Why are certain companies resuming operations first in Phase 1 of the post-circuit breaker period?

A: The objective of Phase 1 is to resume economic and social activities in a safe and progressive manner. More workers will gradually be allowed to return to work, starting with businesses that operate in settings with lower transmission risks. These include manufacturing and production facilities and most businesses with employees working in office settings or settings that do not require interactions with large groups of people.

Before resuming activities, businesses must comply with the requirements for Safe Management Measures and any sector-specific requirements which apply to them.

However, employees must work from home to the maximum extent. Those working from home should continue to do so. They should only go to the office when demonstrably necessary; for example, to access systems or equipment that cannot be accessed from home or to complete a transaction that is legally required to be completed in person and on-site.

Q: How can I implement staggered working and break hours at the workplace?

A: Employers will need to implement staggered hours when they resume on-site activities, as required under Safe Management Measures. Staggered working hours must be implemented over at least three one-hourly blocks, with not more than half of the employees reporting to work within each one-hour block.

For example, if the normal working hours are from 9am to 6pm, employers can stagger employees’ reporting times at one-hour intervals from 7.30am to 8.30am, 8.30am to 9.30am and 9.30am to 10.30am, with corresponding staggered timings for end of work. Timings of lunch and other breaks must also be staggered.

Reporting and ending times should not coincide with peak-hour travel where possible, especially if employees need to use public transport. Employers should communicate the staggered working arrangements to employees who need to work on-site before resuming on-site activities.

Staggered hours are important to reduce possible crowding of employees at all common spaces. If it is not feasible to implement staggered hours due to operational reasons, such as manufacturing production line activities, employers must implement other systems to reduce the chances of employees gathering at common spaces; for example, by arranging for different groups to arrive through different entrances.

Q: Will I receive an e-mail or document to confirm that my company can resume operations from Tuesday?

A: No. You will not receive any additional notifications. If you are unsure whether you can resume operations, please visit bizfile.gov.sg and log in with your CorpPass to obtain the Singapore Standard Industrial Classification (SSIC) code for your primary business activity.

Once you have retrieved your SSIC code for your primary business activity, check it against the list of permitted services that can be found on the Covid GoBusiness portal.

Q: My business is included in the list of permitted services. Do I need to submit any manpower details when I resume operations?

A: Yes. All businesses must submit information on the number of workers working on-site via the Covid GoBusiness portal within two weeks after resuming operations. You may submit your manpower details using the “Permissions and Manpower Declaration” button on the portal with immediate effect.

Businesses that fail to do so will be in breach of the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act. First-time offenders found operating will face a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to six months, or both. Subsequent offences may face a fine of up to $20,000, imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.

Businesses must also keep a list of employees with their working arrangements, including details of employees working in shifts, the time they arrive and leave the workplace, as well as their break hours and split team arrangements. Companies need not submit these details via the Covid GoBusiness portal, but will have to show the documentation to enforcement officers upon request.