Most workplaces to close for one month from Apr 7 to curb spread of Covid-19

2020-04-06 12:20:25
Most workplaces to close for one month from Apr 7 to curb spread of Covid-19
All workplaces except for those providing essential services and those able to operate remotely will be suspended from Apr 7 to May 4 during a month-long "circuit breaker" campaign to curb further spread of COVID-19, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Friday (Apr 3). 

Previously, employers were still allowed to have some employees work physically at their premises if they implemented safe distancing measures, but now, Mrs Teo said, "we need all premises to close". "None of those workplace activities should continue," she added. 


Companies able to conduct business operations while their employees work from home will be allowed to continue running. 


Otherwise, operations will have to be reduced or to cease completely, she said.


Employers that fail to comply with these new regulations could be jailed or fined under the Infectious Diseases Act. 


Companies that offer essential services or are strategic to the economy will still be allowed to continue as well, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said earlier in his speech on Friday. 


At a press conference held by the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force after Mr Lee's address, Mrs Teo said that employers should start discussing work arrangements with their workers.


In a separate press release, MOM said that its officers will begin enforcement operations on Apr 7 to ensure that only businesses that are exempted from the suspension are operating from their workplaces. 


"For employers who cannot work from home or at their workplace premises, employers should work out with them clear salary and leave arrangement, based on the principle of shared responsibility," the ministry wrote. 


"Such arrangements should take into consideration the government support for wages and any subsidies for training."


As workplaces shut down for four weeks, the Government is looking at boosting wage subsidies and suspending foreign worker levies, Mrs Teo said. 


The Jobs Support Scheme, in which the Government co-funds salaries, will be enhanced to help businesses pay local workers, noting that some of these companies' operations will be reduced or ceased during this period, she said.

Details will be announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in a few days. 


The Government is also looking into waiving foreign worker levies for the next four weeks so that businesses can "restart smoothly after this break", she said. 


"We will also consider if employers need temporary help to ensure they have the essential workforce to restart." 

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