Coronavirus: 1,000 MOM calls and visits daily to ensure work pass holders comply with mandatory leave of absence

Compliance officers at the Ministry of Manpower's service centre in Bendemeer Road calling work pass holders on Feb 12, 2020, to ensure that they are serving the mandatory leave of absence. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - More than 1,000 calls and visits are being made daily as part of checks by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) to ensure work pass holders are serving the mandatory 14-day leave of absence (LOA).

Other measures include requiring all workers on the LOA to self-report their location to the ministry, a senior MOM official told reporters on Wednesday (Feb 12), following an announcement last week that the Government would tighten enforcement and monitoring on this front.

Mr Felix Ong, director of the employment inspectorate at MOM's foreign manpower management division, said the ministry conducts three layers of checks daily on work pass holders who are serving the LOA.

Those on LOA should limit their contact with others and stay at home, but can make brief trips for necessities or food.

First, text messages with a unique Web link have been sent to all workers serving the LOA since Monday, warning them that they need to report their location to MOM within an hour.

When clicked, the link prompts the worker to turn on the GPS location service on their phone, and their location is sent to the ministry to see if the worker is at his correct place of residence.

While Mr Ong did not reveal the frequency of such messages, citing operational sensitivities, he said they are sent randomly and multiple times a day to each worker.

Second, calls are made to a number of workers. MOM also did not reveal how such workers are selected, but a spokesman said the calls are made randomly at different intervals, without a specific number of calls per day.

The calls are conducted in Mandarin or English by compliance officers based at MOM's service centre in Bendemeer Road, who work in shifts to cover all seven days of the week.

A voice call is first done to notify the worker that the ministry is contacting them, followed by a video call, which may require the worker to show their immediate surroundings. The worker's identity and details are verified against MOM's database.

If the calls are repeatedly not picked up, checks are made with the employer.

Remote video URL

Third, enforcement officers from MOM may conduct spot checks at the places where workers on LOA are staying in.

Mr Keith Aw, an MOM senior manager who conducts such checks, said the inspections were also done to check on the well-being of those under the LOA.

"Most of the people so far have adhered to their LOA requirements. We also check on their general health, the state of their accommodation, and whether they are still receiving their salary," said Mr Aw, who works in the ministry's foreign manpower management division.

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If a worker is found to be unwell, he is given a mask and asked to seek medical treatment. Any issues raised will be brought up with the employer.

Mr Ong said the MOM takes compliance with the LOA very seriously.

On Sunday, the ministry repatriated and banned four work pass holders and suspended work pass privileges for six employers for two years for flouting LOA rules.

Clear-cut examples of rule breaking include working at the workplace, or leaving the house for non-essential trips, like seeing a movie.

Although the LOA is compulsory for all people returning from China, including Singaporean workers, MOM is focusing on work pass holders, he said.

He also clarified that quarantine orders are enforced under the Infectious Diseases Act, and fall under the remit of the Health Ministry.

"If there are cases (of Singaporeans) that come up, we won't hesitate to take action. I think there is a high degree of awareness. We have sent out advisories on the regulations, and we will rely on the employer to check," he said.

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