If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and was at the workplace on any of the past seven days, the employer will have a maximum of one day to implement a “snap 14-day work-from-home regime”, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Tuesday (7 Sep).
This came after the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Monday that social gatherings and interactions at workplaces will be banned starting on Wednesday (8 Sep) amid the spike in COVID-19 cases recently.
MOH observed that the recent clusters in workplace settings have taken place due to “lax safe management measures”, especially in areas like staff canteens and pantries where people tend to let their guard down and interact amongst themselves without their masks on.
In a statement, MOM noted that a follow-up plan must be put in place in the event of a confirmed case, adding that employers will have to adopt precautionary measures upon being notified of a confirmed case.
According to the Ministry, employees must inform their employer if they test positive for COVID-19 in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
If the employee was at the workplace on any of the past seven days, the employer will have to implement the snap 14-day work-from-home regime “as soon as possible”, and must be done no later than one day after the positive test result, said MOM.
It added that employees are also encouraged to self-swab every two to three days during the 14-day period.
In addition, the section of the workplace premises where the confirmed case worked will also have to be immediately vacated and cordoned off.
“There is no need to vacate the building or the whole floor if there had been no sustained and close contact with the confirmed case,” it asserted.
MOM noted that a thorough cleaning and disinfection must also be carried out at all relevant on-site areas and assets that were exposed to confirmed cases, in accordance with the National Environment Agency (NEA) guidelines.
“For worksites with confirmed cases, businesses could be suspended if there are public health grounds,” it stated.
Netizens urge Govt to set WFH by default as the new rules may lead confusion
A look through the comments section of CNA’s Facebook post reveals many netizens believe that MOM should set a work-from-home regime by default, instead of requiring employers to implement a “snap” 14-day work-from-home everytime when COVID-19 case is detected at the workplace.
Most of them opined that the new rules may lead to more confusion.
One netizen wrote: “Not all companies can implement ‘snap’ WFH, especially for their frontline staff. Doing things anyhow, with new different rules and protocols everytime that are just not feasible at times, nor easy to follow. And it causes more confusion.”
“What the MMTF could have done is to fall back on existing protocols that people are already familiar with. Once the virus situation gets serious enough, activate WFH as default, except for essential workers,” the netizen added.
Another commenter wrote: “Just revert WFH as default la, why make it so difficult? Our stress doesn’t come from Work from Home or Work from Office, but from the changing measures.”
“So, if 1 colleague is covided, and anyone who sits close to him has to snap WFH then returns to the office after everything is ok… What if another colleague then gets covided & the snap WFH repeats again? Isn’t this very traumatising for everyone at work?” said one commenter.