Snap work-from-home rules for offices with Covid-19 cases cut from 2 weeks to 10 days

SINGAPORE - To the major relief of businesses, a single random Covid-19 case in the workplace will no longer lead to an immediate, blanket 14-day work-from-home (WFH) requirement for all staff.

Starting on Wednesday (Sept 22), a snap WFH regimen will be implemented only if three or more employees working in the same premises test positive for Covid-19 within a period of seven straight days.

The duration of enforced WFH – for workers who are able to work from home – will also be cut down to 10 days.

The WFH rules are aimed at curbing workplace transmission, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Monday.

The revised 10-day WFH period is in line with the quarantine period reduction – also from 14 to 10 days – for close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) had explained that this was to account for the Delta variant’s shorter incubation period of four days or less, on average.

The new snap WFH period will start on the day after the date of the latest positive test result of the third employee, said MOM.

It added that workers - including on-site contractors and vendors - who have been placed on snap WFH arrangements will be able to return to office for ad-hoc reasons if they test negative via an antigen rapid test (ART).

The test should be completed before they return, and not be done more than 24 hours before the end of their ad-hoc return to the workplace.

MOM said the new, shortened WFH duration aims to mitigate potential disruptions to businesses. After its previous 14-day guideline was issued earlier in September, several business leaders said they were concerned over the potentially disruptive impact, particularly in the face of a manpower crunch.

On Monday, MOM urged both employers and employees to exercise social responsibility and self-isolate if they are known to be close contacts with the positive cases in their midst.

"All affected employees are encouraged to monitor their health and administer ART self-swabs during the 10-day period at least twice a week, and before returning onsite," it added.

It also advised employers to vacate and cordon off the section of the workplace where the confirmed cases had worked, and to deep clean the affected premises.

MOM reiterated that companies should review and ensure adequate safe management measures remain in place.

These include having no more than 50 per cent of employees able to work from home be at the workplace at one time and doing away with social gatherings at the office.

Employers should also mandate meal breaks to be taken individually, stagger start times, allow flexible workplace hours and observe safe distancing of at least a metre.

MOM said: "As Singapore continues to navigate its way towards becoming a Covid-resilient nation, employers and employees both have a part to play in reducing transmission risk at workplaces.

"We urge everyone to abide by the latest requirements so as to keep each other safe."