Coronavirus: MOM makes over 1,000 calls, visits daily on leave of absence workers

Officers checking on work pass holders and conducting video calls with them at the LOA compliance call centre in the Ministry Of Manpower Services Centre yesterday.
Officers checking on work pass holders and conducting video calls with them at the LOA compliance call centre in the Ministry Of Manpower Services Centre yesterday.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

More than 1,000 calls and visits are being made daily as part of checks by the Ministry of Manpower (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 yesterday, 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 MOM 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 his phone, and his 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 seven days a week to some 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.

A voice call is first made to notify the worker that MOM is contacting him, followed by a video call. The worker's identity and details are verified against MOM's database.

If the calls are repeatedly missed, checks are made with the employer.

Third, enforcement officers from MOM may conduct spot checks at the places where workers on LOA are staying. Mr Keith Aw, a senior manager who conducts such checks, said the inspections are also done to check on the well-being of those under the LOA.

Workers are asked about their health, their accommodation and whether they are still receiving their salary, said Mr Aw, who works in MOM's foreign manpower management division.

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

Mr Ong said 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 Singaporeans, MOM is focusing on work pass holders, he said.

"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.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2020, with the headline 'MOM makes over 1,000 calls, visits daily on leave of absence workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe