Employers and employees alike are thronging key agencies such as business associations for advice on a host of issues amid the pandemic.
Concerned workers have contacted the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to ask about employers' plans to place them on no-pay leave or to reduce their salaries. Some of the inquiries have prompted intervention from the ministry and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices.
An MOM spokesman told The Straits Times (ST): "Some employers have agreed to review their practices after our intervention. Others have sought understanding... by showing evidence of financial difficulty; cost-saving measures were necessary to save jobs and avoid retrenchments." Irresponsible employers will be disqualified from government support, he added.
While MOM did not provide the number of employment-related queries it got, callers have said it is difficult to get through on the hotline, presumably due to a high volume of calls. All six attempts by ST to reach operators on MOM's Workright hotline last week were unsuccessful.
Some bosses are going to various business associations for advice. Employment-related queries tripled to more than 600 last month at the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF). Employers sought advice on issues ranging from cost-cutting measures such as temporary layoffs or no-pay leave to coping with the restrictions on foreign workers.
SNEF executive director Koh Juan Kiat said it generally points them to government support programmes and tells them to act according to relevant tripartite advisories.
The MOM, SNEF and National Trades Union Congress updated an advisory in March on managing excess manpower and responsible retrenchment. Bosses were urged to seek alternative solutions to layoffs like flexiwork or redeploying staff.
The Singapore Business Federation has a Covid-19 response team in place, and its helpline has addressed around 530 queries, of which a quarter are on manpower issues, said chief executive Ho Meng Kit. It is expanding its ManpowerConnect redeployment scheme to link Singapore firms with local workforce redundancies to ones that are still hiring.
The scheme - launched to redeploy work permit holders across companies - has aided in the transfer of 870 or so workers, said Mr Ho.
The Singapore Manufacturing Federation has a Covid-19 micro-site. President Douglas Foo said it has always advised its members to use government relief fairly. "Workers must also recognise and appreciate the constraints and difficulties which employers have," he added.