Parliament: MOM to issue guidelines to employers on 5-day MC during coronavirus outbreak

The guidelines will give "clearer guidance to employers" while addressing employees' worries about insufficient sick leave in the future, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad.
The guidelines will give "clearer guidance to employers" while addressing employees' worries about insufficient sick leave in the future, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Guidelines on how employers should count the five-day sick leave during the coronavirus outbreak in relation to their workers' sick leave entitlements will be issued by Thursday (Feb 27), said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad in Parliament on Wednesday.

He was responding to Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC), who raised workers' concerns about the five-day sick leave eating into their 14-day sick leave entitlement in the Employment Act.

Doctors are advised by the Health Ministry to issue such five-day medical certificates (MCs) for people who display respiratory symptoms like fever or cough during the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

Mr Zaqy said employers can treat the five days as part of their employee's outpatient sick leave entitlement, but they can also take it as part of the longer hospitalisation entitlement if they want to give more support.

"If an employee were to have insufficient outpatient sick leave in the future, employers are encouraged to be flexible and compassionate, and grant additional sick leave to the employee," he said.

Mr Zaqy also addressed concerns raised in the House on the treatment of migrant workers amid stricter restrictions on foreign workers during the coronavirus situation.

These measures include obtaining the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) approval before work pass holders with recent China travel history can enter Singapore, and mandatory stay-home notices for such workers.

In his reply to Nominated MP Walter Theseira, Mr Zaqy said MOM has been actively educating workers about the coronavirus control measures, such as through videos in the workers' various native languages, its website and posters in dormitories.

 
 
 
 

MPs also questioned the harshness and fairness in how the new control measures were carried out.

Nominated MP Anthea Ong asked about three workers who had their work passes revoked after they did not respond to calls by MOM, while Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) questioned why workers were being punished for not having MOM's approval for entry, when the employers bear the responsibility for getting the approvals.

Mr Zaqy said there are cases where MOM did not punish the workers, as the employers had forced them to enter Singapore without approval.

As of last Saturday, MOM has suspended work pass privileges of 15 employers, three of them when their workers were not found culpable. These workers were given the chance to find other jobs in Singapore, said Mr Zaqy.

He added that it is important for the Government to signal to the public that it is not taking a matter of public health lightly.

Mr Zaqy's reply in Parliament comes amid concerns raised by civil society groups over the treatment of migrant workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

On Monday, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) said many migrant workers depend on their employers for information on government announcements, and some of them risk facing harsh punishments without knowing the new rules.

As of Monday, MOM has taken action against 14 workers for flouting leave of absence rules, which includes revoking work passes and banning them from working in Singapore.

The ministry has also revoked the work passes of 11 workers who entered Singapore despite failing to get approvals.