Up to $8,000 funding to provide rest areas for lower-wage workers under new Workcare Grant

Cleaners taking a break in their rest area in Jurong Point Shopping Centre. The Workcare Grant comes following a pilot study by MOM to test out ways to improve rest areas for cleaners. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo (centre) and Senior Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad (second from left) speaking to cleaners on May 14, 2021. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Building owners and service buyers will now be able to tap a $1 million fund to provide rest areas for their outsourced cleaners and security officers.

The Workcare Grant will cover up to 80 per cent of costs incurred from creating a new rest area, which will be capped at $8,000, or improving an existing rest area, capped at $3,000.

In both cases, the rest area must benefit at least 10 outsourced lower-wage workers, including cleaners and security officers.

Announcing the launch of the Workcare Grant on Friday (May 14), Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that more than 2,000 outsourced lower-wage workers are expected to benefit.

She urged building owners and service buyers to consider tapping the grant to improve the working conditions of these workers.

"It is not very complicated (to provide proper rest areas). It takes a little bit of effort on the part of the service buyers," said Mrs Teo, who was visiting Jurong Point's rest areas for its cleaners and other outsourced workers.

"When we all do our part to show care and concern for essential services workers, let them know that they are valued members of the community... then we are able to uplift our lower-wage workers," she added.

The grant comes after the recent conclusion of a pilot study by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) that started in November 2019 with two town councils to test out ways to improve rest areas of outsourced cleaners.

The study resulted in several key recommendations. First, secure and personal lockers should also be provided for workers in the rest areas to give them the assurance that their personal belongings are safe and allow them to carry out their tasks without worry.

Second, allowing the workers to customise and personalise their rest areas will also give them a sense of belonging and ownership of the space.

Third, showcasing the work and efforts of workers will help to build a connection between them and users such as residents or tenants.

Lastly, creating opportunities for users, such as residents, to appreciate the workers' contributions also helps to create a positive ecosystem for the workers' welfare.

In 2019, a tripartite advisory on provision of rest areas for outsourced workers was released with similar recommendations as the pilot study.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, who was also at Jurong Point on Friday, said the Workcare Grant was intended to be launched in 2020, soon after the release of the advisory.

"However, with the Covid-19 situation, the timing was not right because many businesses were still affected by the circuit breaker... So there was a year's lag, but the principles are the same," he said.

He added that the $1 million currently set aside for the Workcare Grant is an initial funding amount and "we'll see how it goes from there".

Mr Asari Manchong, 68, a cleaner from ISS Facility Services who is stationed at Jurong Point, said its rest areas are very comfortable.

"There's a water cooler, microwave oven, fridge, and it is air-conditioned. Sometimes, I bring my own food so I can spend my one hour of rest here without having to run around to buy food," said Mr Asari, who has been working at Jurong Point for 10 months.

He added that in his previous cleaning job at a condominium, his rest area was at a bin centre without protection from the sun or rain.

Mercatus Co-operative, a subsidiary of NTUC Enterprise that owns and manages Jurong Point, said there are four rest areas in the mall - two each for outsourced housekeeping staff and security officers.

It has also introduced separate rest areas for the two groups of workers at all of its properties, which include AMK Hub and Swing By @ Thomson Plaza.

In 2019, it enhanced the rest areas with lockers, water dispensers, fridges and microwave ovens.

"We believe that by investing in the well-being of our workers, they will continue to do their best work and contribute positively to the organisation," said Mr Andy Kau, general manager of Jurong Point.

The grant will be administered by NTUC U-Care Centre. More information can be found at this website.

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