Singapore issues guideline on Covid-19 vaccination in workplaces

Out-Law News | 09 Jul 2021 | 1:24 am | 1 min. read

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) have jointly issued guidelines on Covid-19 vaccination in Singapore workplaces.

It says that, in line with the national vaccination policy, employers should generally not make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory. Employers may strongly encourage and facilitate medically eligible employees to get vaccinated, such as providing paid time off to get vaccinated or recover from the vaccination. It is also made clear that employees should not be penalised, sacked or have their employment threatened if they refuse vaccination.

Under the guideline, for employees who are exposed to higher risks of Covid-19 infection, employers may require Covid-19 vaccination as a company policy or impose this vaccination requirement upfront at the point of recruitment or advertisement for new hires.

A useful reference point in assessing whether an employment setting exposes an employee to a higher risk working environment is whether the employee is required to undergo Rostered Routine Testing (RRT), mandated Fast and Easy Testing (FET), or is in regular contact with known Covid-19 cases who are isolated due to risk of Covid-19.

Employees working in high risk environment may include those who live in communal living environments such as dormitories, those who are in regular contact with Covid-19 patients including healthcare employees and hotel employees who are in contact with people serving Stay Home Notice, air crew, and those whose work environment or nature of work does not allow for safe management measures to be effective or practicable, such as professional athletes engaged in sports requiring close physical contact, and those in the construction, marine and process sectors.

For employees who are working under higher risk environment but refuse to get vaccination, employers may redeploy the employee to a lower risk environment. If there are no existing redeployment policies in the firm, the terms and conditions for redeployment should be mutually agreed between employers and employees; employers may also recover Covid-19 related costs incurred by the employer from employees who refuse to get vaccination that are over and above the costs incurred for vaccinated employees in similar employment settings.

Employers should exempt employees who belong to groups identified by the Ministry of Health as not suitable to receive the Covid-19 vaccine or are not scheduled for vaccination yet.

Mayumi Soh of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture between MPillay and Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “This advisory is highly expected and welcomed as it provides guidance to both employers and employees regarding Covid-19 vaccination in employment settings.”