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Employees Worry About Safety And Needs To Return To Office Early

Updated: Jun 18, 2020


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SINGAPORE — Throughout the circuit breaker period, Lisa, a receptionist at a small local investment firm, had worked from home with the understanding that this would be her work arrangement for the foreseeable future owing to the Covid-19 situation.


So when her company’s director asked her to report to the office from Tuesday (June 2), the mother of two, who is about seven months’ pregnant with a third, and who requested to have her full name withheld from publication, was shocked.


Her main job is answering the phone, which she says she can do from home, as the calls are diverted there from the main office.


She wondered to herself: Didn’t the Government say that even after the circuit breaker period ends at the end of Monday, all workers must continue to work from home unless clearly necessary?


With Singapore entering the first phase of its three-phased economic reopening, several employers and rank-and-file workers in small businesses have told TODAY of the confusion over the “telecommute whenever possible” rule, despite the start of phase one on Tuesday.


In phase one, the Government has stated that workers are expected to continue to work from home where it is at all possible.


Under the Infectious Diseases Act, employers who do not make facilities available for members of staff to work from home where such an arrangement is reasonably achievable could be jailed or fined. Businesses may also face stop-work orders or other penalties.


Breaches or poor practice relating to such safe management measures can be reported to the authorities via SnapSAFE, a mobile app, according to the Manpower Ministry (MOM).


On Friday, MOM provided clarification that working from home is the default position.


Until that happened, and despite the Government emphasising the rules on several occasions over previous days, several businesses had apparently been dithering over whether to continue with telecommuting arrangements.


‘NO POINT’ RETURNING TO THE OFFICE


Several office workers told TODAY that their bosses have ordered them to return to work even though they worked from home successfully during the circuit breaker.


The workers noted that returning to the office during phase one would place them and their families at unnecessary risk of contracting Covid-19.


Some said their firms had provided no guidance on work arrangements as Singapore moves from the circuit-breaker period to phase one of reopening the economy.


Others have been offered a “choice” over which option they preferred, even though the MOM rules state that during phase one, workers must work from home if the option is available to them.


Lisa, the receptionist at the financial firm, said she had warned the human resources department and her boss that they could be breaking the law — but to no avail.


Her boss wants her to do her job in the office.