Coronavirus: Employers advised to stagger work timings, let employees commute at off-peak hours

People wear masks as they cross the road in Singapore's Central Business District on March 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Employers have been advised to adopt telecommuting, stagger work hours and reduce close contact at work, where feasible.

These recommendations by the Health and Manpower ministries on Friday (March 13) come amid new social distancing measures announced by the Government to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

They also follow the World Health Organisation's declaration of the outbreak as a pandemic on Wednesday.

MOH also advised employers to use video-conferencing where possible, and allowing employees to commute at off-peak hours.

In a separate advisory, MOM advised that special work-from-home arrangements should be made for vulnerable employees, such as those who are older, pregnant or have underlying medical conditions.

MOM noted that working from home is not feasible for some jobs or functions such as those involving front-line operations or fieldwork in construction sites, shipyards, or factory plants.

Other arrangements could be made, it said.

For example, employers in the manufacturing sector could consider deploying employees in shifts if such arrangements are not already in place, while extending operational hours to maintain production output.

"Employers should consider clear separation of employees on different shifts, (by) implementing human traffic management measures and stepping up cleaning of common areas during shift changeovers," MOM said.

The ministry also recommended that employers widen the space between individual work stations to at least 1m, and shorten meetings while limiting the number of attendees.

Workplace activities involving close and prolonged contact between participants that are not critical for business operations should also be deferred.

In a national address on Thursday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said additional social distancing measures, such as compulsory telecommuting, will be introduced should there be a spike in Covid-19 cases in Singapore.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force combating the spread of the virus here, said on Friday that such additional measures within Singapore were needed, in addition to the extra restrictions rolled out at Singapore's borders.

From 11.59pm on March 15, all new visitors who have been to Italy, France, Spain and Germany within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry or transit. This is on top of previous restrictions announced for travellers coming from northern Italy, China, Iran and South Korea.

Mr Wong said: "We know the virus is already circulating within our own population and we have to do more to contain or to slow down the spread of the virus within Singapore itself."

Remote video URL

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.