Advisory on Business Continuity Plan
Issued on 4 February 2022
- The number of confirmed Omicron cases has started to rise more sharply. While the number of severe cases remains low due to our high vaccination rates and Safe Management Measures (SMMs), we should prepare for surges in infections due to the higher transmissibility of Omicron. As observed in other countries / regions which have experienced Omicron waves, staff absences due to COVID-19 infections can significantly disrupt business operations. The Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) has thus called on employers, in particular those providing essential services, to prepare and be ready to implement their business continuity plans (BCPs), adhere strictly to SMMs and encourage employees to test themselves regularly, so as to dampen transmission and minimise business disruptions.
- The tripartite partners are issuing this advisory to give further guidance to employers in planning and responding to potentially high levels of workforce absences.
Review and Activation of Business Continuity Plan
- Through the past 2 years in dealing with the pandemic, most employers would have developed a comprehensive set of BCPs that allow them to continue business operations effectively, such as split teams and work-from-home arrangements. In particular, some employers had to temporarily suspend or scale back their business activities during the Circuit Breaker in 2020 or when their migrant workers’ movements were restricted in the dormitories.
- Especially with the present more transmissible Omicron wave, employers may face varying degrees of manpower shortages due to employees testing positive for COVID-19. As the majority of employees are vaccinated, many would be asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms. These employees can return to work with a negative Antigen Rapid Test (ART) result after 72 hours1. This means that employers are more likely to see fluctuating, short-term absences, which may spike if there is workplace transmission.
- In dealing with such short-term staff shortages, employers may wish to consider the measures below in reviewing their BCP:
- Identify core capabilities critical to business operations - employees fulfilling these critical functions can be deployed in split teams to reduce risks of disruption to operations.
- Train and identify other employees within the company who can be redeployed should the employees performing critical functions test positive for COVID-19.
- Consider regular testing of employees who work on-site, especially those serving critical functions, to allow for early detection and isolation of positive COVID-19 cases to reduce workplace transmission among critical staff. Employees should also exercise self-responsibility and should not turn up for work when they are feeling unwell.
- Maintain regular contact with employees who have contracted COVID-19 to keep track of their recovery and to facilitate those who test negative to return to work earlier.
- Adhere to the Advisory on Requirements for Safe Management Measures at the workplace, including the steps to take when employees are infected with COVID-19.
- Develop company policy on leave and salary arrangements (e.g. provision of additional paid leave, consumption of paid sick leave or annual leave), in consultation with unions where applicable, should the employer decide to temporarily suspend operations due to absence of employees critical to core business functions. Employers can refer to the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment (TAMEM) for recommended practices on leave and salary matters arising from business disruptions.
- Identify the triggers for the various aspects of the BCP depending on the level of staff absences for different segments of the workforce.
- Prepare other resources that are required to activate the BCP, such as work-from-home equipment and channels to employ temporary help.
- Prepare communications plan to consumers or service buyers to seek their understanding for delays in service delivery (if any).
- Take guidance from advisories issued by the respective sector agencies (if any).
Call to Action for Employers and Employees
- As the nation deals with this period of elevated daily cases, the tripartite partners urge both employers and employees to continue to work together. In some cases, this may mean that some employees would be requested to put in more hours2 to cover for the absence of their colleagues. Employees should support their employers in these difficult times to ensure business continuity; and employers should likewise show care and concern for the health and safety of their employees, recognise their sacrifices and contributions, and reward them accordingly.
- The tripartite partners also call on the public to support all our employees and employers, as they do their best to continue to deliver goods and services to the wider community despite temporary staff shortages. Let us be prepared to exercise patience if there is unavoidable delay, and also encourage them in their efforts.
- For further queries, please contact:
Ministry of Manpower
Ministry of Health
National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)
Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF)
- Under the COVID-19 Healthcare Protocol 2, employees who are physically well and tested COVID-19 positive, or have been assessed by a doctor to have a mild condition, should self-isolate for at least 72 hours. After 72 hours, these employees should conduct a self-administered ART, and if tested negative, they can exit self-isolation and resume normal activities. If they continue to test positive, they should continue to self-isolate and self-test daily until they obtain a negative result or until 12pm on Day 7 (if vaccinated). For more details, please refer to the advice on www.covid.gov.sg.
- It is critical to ensure the continuity of essential services, such as transport and healthcare, amid an Omicron wave. For employees in essential services covered by Part 4 of the Employment Act, their employers may wish to apply for exemptions from overtime limits. More details.