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askST: Unless clearly necessary, all employees must work from home

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

Employers can allow employees to go to the office only if there is no alternative and it is demonstrably necessary. Otherwise, telecommuting, or working from home, must continue to be the default mode of working. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Employers can allow employees to go to the office only if there is no alternative and it is demonstrably necessary. Otherwise, telecommuting, or working from home, must continue to be the default mode of working. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Q Are all employees required to return to their workplaces from June 2? 

A No. Working from home must be adopted as the default mode of working. Employees who have been working from home during the circuit breaker period must continue to do so.

They can only go to the office when there is no alternative and when it is demonstrably necessary to do so — for example, to access systems or equipment that cannot be accessed from home or to fulfil legal requirements.

For employees who are still unable to work from home, employers should review work processes, provide the necessary IT equipment to employees and adopt solutions that enable remote working and online collaboration.

Q I have been told to return to the office from June 2 despite being able to perform my work from home during the circuit breaker period. What do I do?

A All employers must put in place Safe Management Measures and should communicate the measures clearly to all employees before resuming business. The measures include ensuring all employees continue to work from home as much as possible to reduce physical interactions at workplaces.

It is the responsibility of employers to show that they have made a reasonable effort to facilitate working from home at all times, including reviewing and transforming business processes through technology to support remote working. 

Businesses that do not implement Safe Management Measures are liable for penalties under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act and to have their operations suspended. 

Breaches or poor practices of Safe Management Measures can be reported via SnapSAFE.

Q Under what circumstances may I return to my workplace from June 2?

A Employers are permitted to allow employees to go to the office if there is no alternative and it is demonstrably necessary. For instance, to operate a system or equipment that cannot be accessed from home, to fulfil legal requirements, or if your job involves operating machinery or equipment on-site or systems that cannot be accessed outside of the office.

Q What should I take note of if I am really unable to telecommute and need to be in office?

 

A You will need to adhere to Safe Management Measures while working in the office. These include undergoing temperature screenings and declarations, wearing masks at all times except during activities that require masks to be removed, practising good personal hygiene and keeping at least a 1m distance from others. If you feel unwell, you must not go to work. Functions that can be done through e-mail, telephone or video conferencing should be conducted remotely.

Q Are there any available resources to help businesses review work processes to enable employees to work from home?

A Yes, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has a variety of digital solutions and resources that help businesses implement some of the Safe Management Measures. 

Eligible small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that wish to adopt digital solutions pre-approved by IMDA can apply for the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG). PSG has been enhanced to provide up to 80 per cent support from Apr 1, 2020, to Dec 31, 2020, with more categories of supported solutions like remote working and visitor management. 

More information is available here. Other resources to help SMEs digitalise is available through the SMEs Go Digital programme.