SNEF, MOM, NTUC: Companies need to boost business continuity plans

As Singapore raised its level of alert from yellow to orange due to the Coronavirus, business should adopt measures such as allowing staff to work from home, temperature checks and splitting workers into separate teams where possible.

These are some of the business continuity measures proposed by a joint advisory composed of Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as the country is upping the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) to a higher level.

On Friday (7 Feb), the advisory stressed that companies should prepare for widespread community transmission as well as step up business continuity plans which should also be clearly explained to their workers beforehand. Unionised employers should get in touch with their unions as soon as possible.

Separating workers into teams which can work at different times and places could also be included as the measures. To minimise disruption, workers can undergo cross-training and covering arrangements at their jobs.

The advisory also remarked that workers who are able to do so could be allowed remoter working from home, and employers could procure the needed equipment and review work processes which can enable such flexible working arrangements.

For customers or visitors that come, employers can consider temperature screening and if they are unwell, ask them to return on a different day instead.

All employers should get their workers to monitor their temperature at least twice a day to check their respiratory conditions and those who are not feeling well should go to the doctor without delay,

Employers have also been urged by MOM, NTUC and SNEF to ensure that workers to maintain their personal hygiene such as washing hands regularly.

Workers who have underlying medical condition, who are older or pregnant should be less exposed at the front-line work and be given special attention for planning their work.

For workers who have children and need to stay home to take care of them, employers should support this and arrange for them remote working from home.

Workers undergoing the mandatory 14-day leave of absence (LOA) are able to work from home or be given additional paid leave if this arrangement is not possible.

In addition to this, additional options could be to allow workers paid time off, use leave or no-pay leave or other mutually agreed arrangements. Workers on home quarantine are considered the same as paid hospitalisation leave.

The Straits Time spoke to companies as they implemented these measures to facilitate the continuation of business during the new Dorscon level. For example, OCBC Bank remarked that its workers will be split into different locations. According to Koh Ching Ching, its group brand and communications head, free face masks have been distributed by the bank to its workers and hand sanitisers have been placed in the bank offices.

According to Aileen Tan, Singtel’s group chief human resources officer,  measures such as home shifts and team segregation  are ready to be implemented if required. Measures such as staff travel declarations, visitor controls and social distancing have already been implemented.

As for Hong Leong Group, it stated that each of its subsidiary is prepared with its own business continuity plans. According to the spokesman, some workers will be made to attend meetings via teleconferencing or work from home if the coronavirus situation takes a turn for the worse.

Companies in the IT services industry, such as AIT Technologies may not be able to offer remote working from home. Its director and chief executive, Nick Lee commented that “we need to work with machines that we can’t take home, so we won’t be working remotely… Since Thursday, we have started doing temperature screenings three times a day. Life will still go on as normal, we don’t want to be too paranoid about this situation yet.”

The chief executive of construction firm Kori Holdings, Hooi Yu Koh mentioned that its 300 employees have been monitoring their temperatures every day and precautionary measures will be increased from today onwards as well: “We will work with the dormitory operators to see how workers from different project sites can be segregated so that those working in the east don’t mix with those working in the west, for example.”

The government stated on Thursday (7 Feb) that it would work with dormitory operators to provide accommodation for those workers whose employers are not able to find accommodation for returning workers as well as increasing monitoring of workers who are on the mandatory LOA.

Firms will be given S$100 per day for each staff member undergoing the LOA. Self-employed workers on LOA will also receive the same amount.

Governed by the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, MOM stated on Friday that employers must maintain responsibility for the “upkeep and accommodation of their foreign employees.”

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