Singapore MOM Update: Relaxation of Safe Management Measures in the Workplace – effective 28 September 2020

Following our last client alert on this topic in May 2020, the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) updated the Requirements for Safe Management Measures at the workplace (the “Safe Management Measures”) on 23 September 2020. Please click here for the link to the updated Safe Management Measures on MOM’s website.

Note: The Safe Management Measures are meant for general workplace settings. Specific workplaces like construction worksites and shipyards should refer to sector-specific requirements.

The updated Safe Management Measures will take effect from 28 September 2020. We highlight below some of the key updates to these measures:

Work-from-home remains the default mode of working. However, return to the workplace can either be initiated by the employee and agreed upon with the employer, or directed by the employer, subject to the following restrictions: 

  • Employers can require their employees to return to work for up to half of their working time. This is measured over a reasonable period of time not exceeding four weeks. Example: A full-time worker with a five-day work week will now be allowed to be in the office for up to 2.5 days in a week.
  • Employers must ensure that no more than half of employees who are able to work from home are at the workplace at any point in time. Example: An employer could split its employees who are able to work from home into two equal teams. Each team will alternate between work-from-home and the workplace on a weekly basis.

For employees at the workplace, employers should take note of the following precautions:

  • To enable more employees to avoid peak-hour travel (especially if they commute via public transport), employers should stagger the start times for all employees at the workplace such that at least half of them start work in the workplace at or after 10am, as far as possible
  • Employers should also stagger the timings of lunch and other breaks accordingly.
  • For employees who can work from home but return to the workplace, employers should also allow for flexible workplace hours (i.e. hours spent at the physical workplace) to reduce the duration spent in the workplace without shortening the total working hours. Examples: Employers could allow a proportion of their employees to work in the workplace from 10am - 4pm, while working from home the rest of the time. Employers could also allow their employees to work from home in the morning, and only return to the workplace in the afternoon, e.g. from 1 - 5pm; or return to the workplace only for meetings and work from home for the rest of the day.
  • If it is not feasible to implement flexible workplace hours and staggered start times and break hours due to operational reasons, employers must implement other systemic arrangements to reduce congregation of employees at common spaces.
  • For suitable workplace settings, employers should continue with the shift or split team arrangements with no cross-deployment or interaction between employees in different shifts, teams or worksites. If cross-deployment is unavoidable, additional safeguards should be taken to minimise the risk of cross infection.
  • Whilst physical meetings should continue to be minimised, work related events/meetings of up to 50 persons at the workplace will be permitted, subject to strict adherence with the relevant safe management measures (e.g. 1 m safe distancing, wearing of masks etc.) and food and drinks preferably not served.