Know Your Employment Obligations in Light of COVID-19

Find out your obligations as an employer if your employees are on quarantine, LOA or SHN

06 May 2020 Articles Employment contract Best practices

This article forms part of a series of pointers to help you better understand your employment obligations towards your employees. We hope this information is of help when you review your HR practices and to ensure you correctly apply the statutory provisions, in compliance with the Employment Act (EA), towards becoming a responsible and progressive employer. 

In view of the evolving Coronavirus Disease (COVID-2019), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released an advisory for employers with employees who have been served with a quarantine order, or placed on leave of absence (LOA) or stay-home notice (SHN). Employers may refer to MOM’s advisory on the options they can adopt and implement at the workplace and their responsibility towards their employees during this period of time.

In this article, we share our responses to some of the commonly asked questions to help you align your organisation’s policies and practices with the EA requirements and MOM’s advisories on COVID-19. 

Q: Do I have to impose leave of absence (LOA) for the rest of my workers who have returned from overseas (excluding China) as a safety precaution? 

TAFEP: Employers do not have to impose LOA on employees who have not travelled to mainland China. Only employees returning from mainland China (excluding Hubei province) within the last 14 days, and have arrived in Singapore between 31 January 2020 1800 hrs and 18 February 2020 2359 hours are required to be on LOA
for 14 days from the day of arrival in Singapore.

Q: For the workers who are placed on LOA/SHN, should I ask them to see a doctor and get a medical certificate (MC) to cover the period of their LOA/SHN?

TAFEP: Employers do not have to ask those who have just returned from mainland China to see a doctor for the purpose of getting a MC to cover the period of their LOA/SHN. However, they should consult a doctor as soon as possible if they are unwell (e.g. a fever or respiratory symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath).

Both LOA and SHN are precautionary measures. As advised by MOH, employees on LOA/SHN should remain in their residences as much as possible, minimise visitors and maintain good records of persons with whom they come into close contact. Employees on LOA may leave their residences for daily necessities or to attend important personal matters, but they must minimise time spent in public spaces and contact with others. Employees on SHN must however remain in their residences at all times during the 14-day period and should not leave the residence even if it is to purchase food and essentials.

During the LOA/SHN period, employers may adopt flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting and teleconferencing to allow them to work from home, subject to their job function, organisation’s needs and the nature of the business.

If that is not possible, employers are encouraged to provide additional paid leave on top of employees’ annual leave entitlements for the LOA/SHN, especially if the travel was work-related. Employers who wish to better support their employees can also consider this option even if the travel was not work-related. If that is not feasible, employers can consider the following options, or a combination of the options for employees on LOA/SHN: 

  • Treat employees’ LOA/SHN as paid hospitalisation leave or paid outpatient sick leave; 
  • Allow employees to apply for annual leave;
  • Allow employees to use advance paid leave or apply for no pay leave (if they have used up their leave entitlements); or 
  • Other mutually agreed arrangements between the employers and employees / unions. 

Q: Do I need to pay the salaries of workers for the period where they are being quarantined/on LOA/SHN? Which rate of pay should I be using to pay their salary? 

TAFEP: Employers remain responsible for their employees whether they are quarantined or on LOA/SHN, including the correct and prompt payment of their salaries. Employees who are served a Home Quarantine Order will be deemed to be on paid hospitalisation leave, where the salary is paid at a gross rate of pay and within 7 days after the end of the salary period.

Similarly, employers who treat employees’ LOA/SHN as paid hospitalisation leave or paid outpatient sick leave are required to pay them at a gross rate of pay and within 7 days after the end of the salary period. 

If an affected employee has used up his medical benefits provided for under the employment contract and/or collective agreement, employers should consider providing medical coverage as the employee concerned may face financial hardship during this time.

Q: What support is available for employers whose employees are affected by quarantine or LOA/SHN requirements?

TAFEP: A Quarantine Order Allowance (QOA) Scheme has been set up by Ministry of Health (MOH) to mitigate the financial impact for those who have been served Quarantine Orders under the Infectious Diseases Act. Employers who have employees issued with Quarantine Orders are eligible to claim for the QOA. 

More information on the QOA scheme can be found at this webpage: Quarantine Order Allowance Scheme

A Leave of Absence Support Package (LOASP) has been set up by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to provide support to businesses and self-employed persons affected by LOA and SHN requirements due to the COVID-19. The support will not apply to employers and SEPs if telecommuting arrangements are available for work to be performed remotely by affected persons.

More information on the LOASP can be found at this webpage: Leave of Absence Support Programme (LOASP) for businesses and SEPs

For further queries relating to COVID-19, please contact: 
Ministry of Manpower 
MOM Contact Centre: 6438 5122 
www.mom.gov.sg 

Ministry of Health 
MOH General Hotline: 6325 9220 
www.moh.gov.sg 

Additional resources on COVID-19
For more information, please refer to: 

Click on the following links to read our earlier articles related to Employment Act:

Additional resources on Employment Act 
Employer Advisory Service @ TAFEP (EAS) – EAS consultants will provide scenario-based advice to employers on the Employment Act and relevant parts of the Child Development Co-Savings Act, Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, and Retirement and Re-employment Act, which impact employment terms and conditions. EAS consultants do not provide legal advice and will not discuss points of law. We will only provide practical guidance on the application of the Employment Act and other labour laws related to the specific scenarios that are raised by employers, and share good employment practices that are adopted by industry peers and employers in Singapore.

For more information on EAS@TAFEP, please visit https://www.tafep.sg/eastafep