askST: How can firms in S'pore operate safely under new Covid-19 measures?

Companies are encouraged to update their business continuity plans to prepare for the event that an employee tests positive for Covid-19.
Companies are encouraged to update their business continuity plans to prepare for the event that an employee tests positive for Covid-19.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Manpower released updated guidelines on how workplaces should operate safely to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Among the measures are a snap 14-day work-from-home regimen if an employee with Covid-19 has been at the workplace in the past seven days.

The Straits Times addresses questions about the new advisory:

Q: What should an employer do if informed that a staff member has Covid-19?

A: Staff have to immediately vacate and cordon off the immediate vicinity of the area where the positive case worked. There is no need to vacate the whole floor or building if there had been no sustained and close contact with the confirmed case.

All staff who are able to work from home must do so for the next 14 days. The period starts the day after the positive test result is known.

All employees are encouraged to self-swab every two to three days during the 14-day period.

The company must also carry out a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of all areas and things that were exposed to confirmed cases, in accordance with guidelines by the National Environmental Agency.

In general, staff must inform their employer if they get a positive Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction test result.

Business could be suspended at work sites with confirmed cases if there are public health grounds to do so, said MOM.

Q: Does this requirement apply across all sectors and workers who are contracted from third-party vendors, such as cleaners?

A: Yes, it applies to all sectors, and kicks in if any employee or regular contractor alike who has tested positive for Covid-19 was at the workplace in the past seven days.

All employees who are able to work from home must do so, regardless of the company's pre-existing working arrangements.

Employees whose work cannot be done from home, such as a worker who requires access to specialised machinery only available at the workplace, can return to the workplace.

Q: How will MOM be monitoring to ensure firms comply with the latest Covid-19 workplace measures?

A: MOM inspectors will continue to engage with companies to ensure they are able to comply with the latest safe management measures.

This includes conducting physical checks on companies with Covid-19 positive cases to ensure the snap work-from-home arrangements are implemented.

Companies are encouraged to update their business continuity plans - such as what they rolled out during or since the circuit breaker period last year - to prepare for the event that an employee tests positive for Covid-19.

Firms are also encouraged to consider adopting flexible work arrangements on a sustainable basis. This will help prepare companies to pivot quickly to alternative work arrangements in the event of future infectious disease outbreaks.

Q: Must ART testing for onsite workers be supervised by a trained person? Do employees who return to the workplace twice a week have to do the test too?

A: All companies are expected to initiate weekly testing for their onsite staff, and those in sectors not subject to mandatory testing will receive eight antigen rapid test kits per onsite staff.

The testing should be done via the Employer Supervised Self-Swab, which means that each staff member is supervised and test results are uploaded on the swab registration system.

The testing applies to any employee who returns to the workplace.