Coronavirus Singapore

Staff needn't reveal jab status unless there is a business need, say experts

Vaccination remains voluntary here, but people can be encouraged to get a jab

Office workers at Raffles Place on May 17, the second day of tightened Covid-19 measures in Singapore. Bosses should not use non-vaccination as a reason to terminate employment as there could be medical reasons for staff not getting a jab, said Insti
Office workers at Raffles Place on May 17, the second day of tightened Covid-19 measures in Singapore. Bosses should not use non-vaccination as a reason to terminate employment as there could be medical reasons for staff not getting a jab, said Institute for Human Resource Professionals chief executive Mayank Parekh.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Employers here have no legal power to force staff to disclose their Covid-19 vaccination status or demand that they get inoculated.

Experts and employers noted that while vaccination is strongly encouraged in Singapore, it remains voluntary, although there are several ways people can be encouraged to get a jab.

These will come more into focus as Singapore rolls out Covid-19 shots to the wider population, with bookings open to Singaporeans aged 12 to 39 from yesterday.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem told The Straits Times that unless there is a business need, employers should not compel staff to disclose if they have had a jab or take punitive action against those who do not get inoculated or refuse to update their vaccination status.

"Even if there is a strong business need, such as needing to know in order to determine if the employee can travel for business or be deployed to higher-risk front-line... roles, do explain clearly why the company needs to know the status, and generally, most employees will comply," she said.

Institute for Human Resource Professionals chief executive Mayank Parekh said bosses should not use non-vaccination as a reason to terminate employment as there could be medical reasons for staff not getting a jab.

Mr Tan Wei Ming, senior associate at law firm CMS Holborn Asia, noted that if employers want to keep records on vaccinated employees, with personal data such as names, they must do so in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Act and other applicable data protection laws.

"For these reasons, companies in Singapore are unlikely to make their employees declare their vaccination status at this juncture."

WongPartnership joint head of employment practice Jenny Tsin said staff should not face discrimination arising from their vaccination status, given that it is voluntary.

However, there could be circumstances that warrant a different approach, such as for jobs involving higher risk of exposure to Covid-19, she said.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs recently ordered its employees in the United States to report their Covid-19 vaccination status as part of their plans to return to the office, Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday.

ST understands that Goldman Sachs is not requiring staff here to report their vaccination status, and most are still working from home.

While professional services firm EY strongly encourages its eligible staff to get vaccinated, it does not require them to declare their status, given that immunisation is not mandatory, said its Singapore and Brunei managing partner Max Loh.

UOB human resources head Dean Tong said the bank has been encouraging staff in critical roles to get vaccinated since the Government announced its roll-out to essential workers in the financial sector in March. ST understands that UOB does not track the vaccination status of employees.

An Amazon spokesman said its employees and associates are generally not required to declare their vaccination status, except for staff travelling to Singapore from overseas. It also gives a cash benefit to front-line employees and associates who are paid by the hour when they get vaccinated off-site.

Ms Low and Mr Parekh said employers can encourage immunisation by communicating the benefits to staff as well as incentivising vaccination through means such as time off after getting the jabs and giving workers a care package.

Mr Samir Bedi, Asean workforce advisory leader at EY, said it would not be surprising to see employers including vaccination as a pre-requisite in job descriptions in future, particularly for positions that require face-to-face interactions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2021, with the headline 'Staff needn't reveal jab status unless there is a business need, say experts'. Subscribe