Cap on staff who can return to workplace back at 50%

Vodafone staff working in their office in Marina Bay in March. With a spike in local community transmissions of Covid-19, limits on the number of employees who can return to the workplace were tightened again yesterday.
Vodafone staff working in their office in Marina Bay in March. With a spike in local community transmissions of Covid-19, limits on the number of employees who can return to the workplace were tightened again yesterday.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

No more than half of employees who are able to work from home should return to the workplace at any one time from Saturday to May 30, in stricter measures announced yesterday to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the community here.

This is a reduction from the current limit of up to 75 per cent of employees allowed to return to the workplace.

Employers should also continue to stagger the start times of employees who need to return to the workplace, and implement flexible working hours.

And social gatherings at the workplace should be avoided, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement yesterday.

If these gatherings cannot be avoided, such as during meal breaks, no more than five persons are allowed to group together.

"Employers must exercise heightened vigilance at the workplace," said MOH.

"These measures will lower transmission risks by reducing overall footfall and interactions at common spaces at or near the workplace, and in public places, including public transport," it added.

A month ago, measures at the workplace were eased to allow up to 75 per cent of employees to return to the workplace from April 5 - an increase from the previous 50 per cent.

Restrictions requiring employees to work from home for at least half their working time were also lifted, and split-team arrangements were no longer mandatory.

But with a spike in local community transmissions of Covid-19, limits on the number of employees who can return to the workplace were tightened again yesterday.

Responding to the announcement, Singapore Business Federation chief executive Lam Yi Young said the tightened limits on returning to the workplace are "expected to be manageable as businesses have experience operating at 50 per cent". "The tightened measures are needed to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in the community," he added.

"We urge all businesses to take the tightened measures seriously and play their part in helping to bring the situation under control, so that we can all look forward to relaxation of the measures."

Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises, also urged companies to adhere to the new restrictions.

"It's going to have a short-term impact on public consumption in the food and beverage sectors, and we'll probably see a reduction in the frequency of activities... But it's an important and necessary step until we reach a stage where the situation is clear," he said.

"We have to slow down before we can move ahead," he added.

Mr Wee said that while the new measures will be a speed bump for businesses dependent on public consumption, he does not expect the tightened workplace measures to have a significant impact on Singapore's economic recovery.

"We can't rule it out but I don't think it will be as bad as the beginning of last year," he added.

"We ask everybody to strictly adhere to the regulations and (remain) steadfast. It's something that we have done before, and we can ride through it again as a country, collectively."

Charmaine Ng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2021, with the headline 'Cap on staff who can return to workplace back at 50%'. Subscribe