Forum: Offer telecommuting option to the vulnerable

Organisations such as that one would take heed if the advisory had specified that employers provide their vulnerable employees with the option to telecommute.
Organisations such as that one would take heed if the advisory had specified that employers provide their vulnerable employees with the option to telecommute.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The Government ramped up its defence against the coronavirus crisis by raising the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) to orange last week, which called for additional measures to minimise the risk of local transmission.

The new measures include telecommuting and workforce segregation as options workplaces can consider in their business continuity plans.

In addition, greater protection is given to vulnerable groups by limiting visitors to public hospitals, pre-schools and eldercare facilities.

School activities are also scaled down to minimise contact.

However, the list of precautionary measures is lacking in one aspect. Vulnerable groups should be given the option to switch to telecommuting and e-learning, should their work and study permit it (Give option to take kids out of school, by Ms Teo Leng Lee, Feb 12).

I know of a pregnant woman whose employer had included split-team work arrangements in its business continuity plan, where employees take turns to telecommute on alternate weeks to minimise contact.

However, her employer abruptly suspended the plan prior to the heightened risk assessment for reasons unknown to her.

Her employer does not afford any more protection to vulnerable people like her during the current Dorscon level.

Organisations such as that one would take heed if the advisory had specified that employers provide their vulnerable employees with the option to telecommute.

Some social service groups have even voluntarily mandated that their social workers replace non-essential house calls with phone counselling to minimise contact.

Vulnerable employees should be empowered to make decisions which affect their personal health and safety.

Timothy Toh Hong Ern

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2020, with the headline 'Offer telecommuting option to the vulnerable'. Print Edition | Subscribe