Limit on employees who can return to workplace back at 50%; firms urged to adhere to tighter Covid-19 rules

Safe-distancing measures at C&W services on June 1, 2020. Under new rules, only 50 per cent of employees can work from office at any one time from May 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - No more than half of employees who are able to work from home should return to the workplace at a time from Saturday (May 8) to May 30 in stricter measures announced on Tuesday to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

This is a reduction from the current limit of up to 75 per cent of employees allowed to return to the workplace.

Employers should also continue to stagger the start times of employees who need to return to the workplace, and implement flexible working hours.

And social gatherings at the workplace should be avoided, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement on Tuesday.

If these gatherings cannot be avoided, such as during meal breaks, no more than five persons are allowed to group together.

"Employers must exercise heightened vigilance at the workplace," said MOH.

"These measures will lower transmission risks by reducing overall footfall and interactions at common spaces at or near the workplace, and in public places, including public transport," it added.

A month ago, measures at the workplace were eased to allow up to 75 per cent of employees to return to the workplace from April 5 - an increase from the previous 50 per cent.

Restrictions requiring employees to work from home for at least half their working time were also lifted, and split-team arrangements were no longer mandatory.

But with a spike in local community transmissions of Covid-19, limits on the number of employees who can return to the workplace were tightened again.

Responding to the latest announcement, Singapore Business Federation chief executive Lam Yi Young said the tightened limits on returning to the workplace is "expected to be manageable as businesses have experience operating at 50 per cent".

"The tightened measures are needed to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in the community," said Mr Lam.

"We urge all businesses to take the tightened measures seriously and play their part in helping to bring the situation under control, so that we can all look forward to relaxation of the measures."

Remote video URL

Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises, also urged companies to adhere to the new restrictions.

"It's going to have a short-term impact on public consumption in the food and beverage sectors, and we'll probably see a reduction in the frequency of activities... But it's an important and necessary step until we reach a stage where the situation is clear," said Mr Wee.

"We have to slow down before we can move ahead," he added.

Mr Wee said that while the new measures will be a speed bump for businesses dependent on public consumption, he does not expect the tightened workplace measures to have a significant impact on Singapore's economic recovery.

"We can't rule it out but I don't think it will be as bad as the beginning of last year," he added.

"We ask everybody to strictly adhere to the regulations and (remain) steadfast. It's something that we have done before, and we can ride through it again as a country, collectively."

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