The coronavirus – a respiratory disease caused in China, now officially identified as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus or 2019-nCOV, has spread to more than 25 countries. With an increasing death toll in China and over 20,000 people affected by the virus globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the situation as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Currently, with 24* confirmed cases in Singapore, these are precautionary measures that employers and employees must adapt.
*Number of confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV infection as of 04 Feb 2020, 2pm according to https://www.moh.gov.sg/2019-ncov-wuhan
Necessary Precautions To Be Made By Employers
- Check the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) website regularly for the latest news and updates on the situation.
- Determine whether to proceed with business travel plans to mainland China based on the latest news.
- Obtain a health and travel declaration from employees who have traveled to mainland China recently or have any plans on traveling in the current situation.
- Monitor the health and conduct daily temperature checks twice on employees who have recently returned from China for a minimum of 2 weeks. If unwell, ensure employees seek proper medical help.
What is LEAVE OF ABSENCE (LOA)
With effect from 31 January 2020 6pm, the 14-day leave of absence (LOA) applies to the following:
- Residents (Singaporean Citizens/ PRs) who traveled to mainland China within the last 14 days;
- Long-term pass holders (including Work Passes and Permits, Student Pass, Dependent Pass and Long-term Visit Pass) who traveled to mainland China within the last 14 days.
- The LOA does not apply to people who returned to Singapore from mainland China before 31st January 2020 6pm.
- Employees on LOA may resume normal activities after 14 days from returning from China, if they remain well.
What EMPLOYEES should do during the LOA period
- Remain in your place of residence as much as possible.
- Minimise visitors to your residence and maintain records of persons you have come into close contact with during this period.
- Avoid attending social gatherings or going to crowded places.
- Get assistance from others for your daily necessities or opt for home delivery services.
- Monitor your health (i.e. for fever ≥ 38°C and respiratory symptoms such as cough and breathlessness).
- Observe good personal hygiene. (Practice washing hands thoroughly before handling food and after using the toilet.)
Employers and employees have a joint duty to ensure that the employee behaves responsibly during the leave of absence.
To ensure that employees avoid the workplace during the LOA period, employers should adopt flexible work arrangements such as getting the employees to work from home.
If working remotely is not possible, employers may consider:
- Providing paid LOA over and above their annual leave if your employee was on a business trip to Mainland China.
- If the employees are in the Mainland for non-business reasons, you may consider to support them by:
- Allowing employees to apply for annual leave
- Treating employees’ leave of absence as sick leave
- Allowing employees to apply for unpaid leave, if they do not have sufficient annual leave
- Other mutually agreed arrangements.
Additionally, the following measures have been introduced to prevent further risks:
- With effect from 31 Jan 2020, all new work pass applications for foreign workers from mainland China will be rejected until further notice. Renewal applications for existing work pass holders will not be affected.
- All returning employees with Hubei travel history within 14 days prior to arrival in Singapore will be quarantined at home or other suitable facilities. Those who were already in Singapore before 28 Jan 2020 will be assessed by MOH and those at higher risk will be quarantined.
Take note that employees who serve a Home Quarantine Order, are deemed to be on paid sick leave. The period of absence from work would be treated as paid hospitalisation leave. If the affected employee has used up the medical benefits provided for by employer, employers should consider providing medical coverage as the employees concerned may face financial hardship during this time.
Health advisories and latest updates on the virus situation is available at www.moh.gov.sg for our local situation. For any further queries, you may contact the MOH general enquiry hotline at 6325 9220 or MOM contact centre at 6438 5122.