SINGAPORE - Tightened rules that limit access to public spaces and the workplace could see more unvaccinated workers roll up their sleeves for the Covid-19 jab, observers said as checks showed that some 8,000 previously unvaccinated workers had received the shots in the past month.
About 48,000 workers were not vaccinated as at Jan 2, less than two weeks before new rules kicked in from Jan 15 that barred them from returning to their workplaces even if they test negative for the coronavirus.
Exceptions are made for those medically ineligible for vaccination or who have recovered from Covid-19 within 180 days.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told The Straits Times that currently, about 40,000 employees have not received any vaccine dose yet, including 6,000 workers who are aged 60 and older. It urged medically eligible employees to get vaccinated promptly, to ensure the safety of others at the workplace.
“For employees who have completed their two vaccine doses, we also encourage them to take a booster shot as well, if they have not,” it added.
Dr David Leong, managing director of human resource firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, believes unvaccinated workers, who can choose to refuse vaccination, have to eventually fall in line and be inoculated in order to stay employable.
He said: “They’ll soon discover that with increasing restrictions, their operable space, access to public places, and even job opportunities are becoming smaller.
"Their insulated bubble must mean that they are to be excluded from their workplaces... Employers cannot be holding up roles indefinitely and risk higher premiums for their insurance because a few staff are unvaccinated.”
As at Feb 6, 84 per cent of companies have attained full vaccine coverage for their workforce, said MOM.
The gradual implementation of restrictions on unvaccinated individuals – including stricter workplace curbs – could have driven down the number of unvaccinated workers, said companies and human resource firms.
Ms Linda Teo, country manager at ManpowerGroup Singapore, said when public locations, including workplaces, and activities become inaccessible to the unvaccinated, more people may decide to get inoculated.
“Many are worried that their jobs might be affected if they are unable to work on-site,” she added. “This is especially so for jobs that cannot be done remotely, such as production operators, warehouse assistants and retail workers.”
Since Jan 1, half of the workforce who can work from home may return to the workplace, subject to safe distancing measures.
To protect unvaccinated workers from being exposed to the virus, some employers have redeployed them to remote-working roles or allowed them to work from home, said companies and observers.
“Generally, companies will try to work things out with the affected employee first,” Ms Teo noted. “Only after they have exhausted all possible avenues, the company will make the hard decision to terminate the employee.”
Business continuity plans have helped firms to keep going despite the fluid Covid-19 situation. These include adopting split teams and flexible working arrangements.
Meanwhile, some companies are promoting employee well-being to ensure productivity levels remain high, as the pandemic leaves workers feeling fatigued and burnt out.
Ms Teo said: “With more employees prioritising their mental and physical well-being, companies that fail to address these needs will likely see higher attrition rate and lower productivity.”