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Advisory on salary and leave arrangements during Circuit Breaker

Issued on 6 April 2020
Updated as of 25 April 2020

  1. The Multi-Ministry Taskforce (“Taskforce”) had first announced on 3 April an elevated set of safe distancing measures as a Circuit Breaker to pre-empt the trend of increasing local transmission of COVID-19. The heightened safe distancing measures to suspend activities at most workplace premises were put in place from 7 April 2020 to 4 May 2020 (“Circuit Breaker”) to reduce the movements and interactions of people. On 21 April, the Taskforce announced that it would extend the Circuit Breaker until 1 June 2020 to further curb the spread of COVID-19.
  2. A tightened list of Essential Services1 remain exempt. These employers must nonetheless ensure that all activities that can take place through telecommuting are done from home and implement safe distancing measures to reduce physical interactions for the activities carried out at the workplace premises2.
  3. All other business, social, or other activities that cannot be carried out from home must be suspended.
  4. Employers that can continue operating their businesses (in limited or full capacity) with their employees working from home should continue to do so.
  5. In view of the impact of the measures on businesses, the tripartite partners are issuing this advisory to guide employers and employees on salary and leave arrangements.

    Guide on salary and leave arrangements during the Circuit Breaker
  6. The Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) announced by the Government is meant to support employers to retain and continue to pay their local employees (Singaporeans and Permanent Residents), even during periods of reduction in business activity.
  7. Employers will now receive four payouts of JSS. The payouts originally scheduled in April, July and October 2020 will proceed as announced. In addition, there will be a payout in May 2020 for the extended Circuit Breaker period. The JSS for the months of April and May is enhanced to 75% of monthly wages3 to provide more support to employers and employees. For other qualifying months, the JSS support varies by sector and is at least 25%.

    Employers that have implemented cost-saving measures could continue with their salary and leave arrangements
  8. Some employers have been severely affected by COVID-19 prior to the Circuit Breaker. These employers would have worked out cost-saving measures with their unions and employees to save jobs (e.g. asking employees to take 4 days of no-pay leave each month), taking into consideration the JSS. Such cost-saving measures should continue.
  9. However, in view of the enhanced JSS payout for April and May, employers should review whether the additional support provided by the government could be shared with employees during this exceptional period to minimise hardship to them. This should be done in consultation with the union if the company is unionised and communicated to the employees.
  10. There are also some employers who have agreed to salary arrangements that are more generous than what is recommended in this advisory, i.e. paragraphs 11 and 12 below. These arrangements should continue.

    Guidelines for employers that have not implemented cost-saving measures
  11. For other employers who have not implemented any cost-saving measures, the tripartite partners strongly urge them not to resort to retrenchments or prolonged no-pay leave to manage business costs during the Circuit Breaker. With the 75% wage support for April and May 2020, employers should pay employees4 a baseline monthly salary. Specifically, the tripartite partners recommend:
    1. For local employees who continue to work full-time during the Circuit Breaker
      Employees working in essential services, or employees in non-essential services who are telecommuting from home, must be paid their prevailing salaries including the employer’s contributions to CPF. For companies that have done well and are still doing well, they could also consider recognising the efforts and contributions of employees, e.g. through additional incentives such as food vouchers.
    2. For local employees who do not work full-time during the Circuit Breaker
      Companies that continue to have good business prospects but may not be operating fully should tap on the enhanced JSS payout to continue paying employees as per Table 1 below:

      Table 1: Recommended salary arrangements (7 April – 1 June 2020)
        Gross monthly salary of local employee up to $4,600 Gross monthly salary of local employee more than $4,600
      Employer assigns work to employee to complete at home Continue to pay their prevailing salaries, including employer’s CPF contributions.

      Use the enhanced JSS payout (for April and May) to provide for a baseline monthly salary to employees including the employer’s share of the CPF contributions; and

      Provide for work done on a pro rata basis – for example, if the employee works half-load (i.e. at 50%), the employer should pay the employee 50% of their monthly salary in addition to the abovementioned baseline monthly salary, subject to a cap of their prevailing salary.

      Employer does not assign work to employee Use the enhanced JSS payout (for April and May) to provide for a baseline monthly salary to employees including the employer’s share of the CPF contributions.
  12. After implementing the salary arrangements in Table 1 above, if the employee’s salary is still below their prevailing monthly salary, the employer should, as far as possible, consider the following measures to top up the shortfall:
    1. Send the employee for training courses approved for Absentee Payroll Funding5 so that the overall salary paid to the employee during the training period would be mostly supported by the Government;
    2. Apply for Flexible Work Schedule (FWS) which allows “time banking” of additional salary payments to offset overtime payments in the future;
    3. Grant additional paid leave to the employee; or
    4. Allow the employee to consume their existing leave entitlements.
  13. Where possible, employers should also allow and support their local employees to take on a second job (e.g. part-time or temporary job with another employer) in companies or public agencies that could continue to operate during the Circuit Breaker to make up for the employees’ loss of income and mitigate the negative impact on their livelihood. Employers can refer to the guide on second job arrangements for employees with reduced work hours in response to COVID-19. Employers may wish to encourage affected employees to consider suitable job opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs Initiative.
  14. In this extraordinary period, we recognise that some employers can themselves be facing financial difficulties with poor business prospects. They may need to use the enhanced JSS payouts to cover some fixed overheads to keep the business going. Notwithstanding this, employers should not act unilaterally and put their employees on prolonged no-pay leave without any baseline salary. Employers should discuss with their unions and employees and come to an agreement on how the JSS payouts are to be used to ensure their business survival as well as provide some salary support to their employees.
  15. In working out such arrangements, employers should give special consideration to their lower wage employees (e.g. employees who qualify for Workfare Income Supplement) and provide more support to them to alleviate any hardship.
  16. Employers should note that as indicated in MOF’s press release dated 21 April, they will receive correspondingly lower JSS payouts in subsequent tranches if they reduce employees’ salaries or put them on no-pay leave.

    Foreign employees
  17. The Government has announced on 6 April 2020 a waiver of the March 2020 Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) due in April to help firms cut costs and improve their cashflow. Employers also received a one-off FWL rebate of $750 for each work permit or S Pass holder, for levies paid in 2020. MOM will additionally provide FWL rebate of $750 for each work permit or S Pass holder in employment as at 1 May 2020 and a waiver of the April 2020 FWL due in the May 2020 to help companies during the extended Circuit Breaker period. This is to enable employers to preserve their manpower in order to quickly resume operation.
  18. Eligible employers would have received the April rebate as early as 21 April 2020, if they have PayNow Corporate account. For employers without the PayNow Corporate account, the rebate will be disbursed via cheque from 15 May 2020. Employers are encouraged to sign up for a PayNow Corporate account to receive their rebates faster, by approaching participating banks.
  19. For the additional FWL rebate for the month of May, employers need to submit an online acknowledgement to MOM6. The disbursement will be processed and credited to the employers’ PayNow Corporate accounts, or disbursed via cheque to those without PayNow Corporate accounts.
  20. In view of the support given to employers, employers should provide salary support, including payment for upkeep and well-being of their more vulnerable foreign employees in Singapore during the Circuit Breaker:
    1. Foreign employees who continue to work full-time must be paid their prevailing salaries.
    2. For foreign employees who could not work, employers must continue to be responsible for their maintenance and upkeep and work out mutually agreed salary and leave arrangements with the unions and employees, especially for the low-wage work permit holders who may need more support. For example, employers can ask their foreign employees to consume their leave entitlements. Where leave entitlements are exhausted, employers should provide salary support for their foreign employees and may apply for FWS to time-bank part of the salaries to cover overtime work after Circuit Breaker. The quantum of salary and upkeep (e.g. housing) support provided by employers to the work permit holders should not be less than the FWL rebates given by the Government.
  21. In view of the levy waivers and rebates, employers of all foreign work permit and S Pass holders will no longer receive the daily allowance paid to employers of workers on Quarantine Orders (QO) or Stay-Home Notice (SHN) going forward. For foreign workers on QO or SHN that begins in April or May, employers will also not be eligible for a further levy waiver, since they would already have the levies payable in April and May waived. For foreign workers on QO or SHN subsequently, they will be eligible for levy waiver.
  22. Employers of Employment Pass (EP) holders will not receive the rebate as there is no foreign worker levy.

    Notification requirements for cost-saving measures with salary reductions during Circuit Breaker
  23. Employers that implement cost-saving measures during the Circuit Breaker between 7 April and 1 June 2020 (inclusive) must notify MOM if the cost-saving measures result in more than 25% reduction in the monthly salaries of their employees and the employer has at least 10 employees.

    Reminder to all employers
  24. All employers are reminded to treat employees, both local and foreign, fairly and responsibly, taking into consideration the significant support provided by the Government to manage business costs and protect jobs. Employers should follow the guidelines on salary and leave arrangements as set out in this advisory (paragraphs 8 to 20).
  25. MOM will investigate complaints against employers who wilfully disregard the advisory and put workers on extended no-pay leave or other cost saving measures without engaging or seeking the consent of their employees. MOM may also suspend JSS / FWL payouts to these employers until investigations are complete. Where there is evidence of irresponsible or unfair treatment, employers may be denied employment support (including JSS and FWL rebate) and have their work pass privileges curtailed.
  26. For further queries, please contact:

    Ministry of Manpower
    Online enquiry
    www.mom.gov.sg

    Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (for queries related to JSS)
    www.iras.gov.sg
    Hotline 1800 352 4728

    Ministry of Trade and Industry / Enterprise Singapore (for queries related to essential / non-essential businesses during Circuit Breaker)
    https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg
    enquiry@enterprisesg.gov.sg or covid_gobusiness@mti.gov.sg
    Infoline 6898 1800


FOOTNOTE

  1. The provision of food and essential health items to the public is an essential service. Excluding specialised stores and outlets (retailing predominantly beverages, confectionaries, packaged snacks and desserts) as well as food vending machines, all other food & beverage (F&B) establishments (including outlets that sell hot / cooked snacks or breads) and pharmacies will remain open. However, F&B outlets can only offer take-away and deliveries only; no dining in is allowed.
  2. The safe distancing measures include reducing the need for and duration of physical interactions; staggering working hours; postponing all group events; and implementing shift work and/or split team arrangements.
  3. The April and May 2020 payouts is based on October and November 2019 wages respectively. Subsequent tranches will reflect any adjustments based on actual wages for April and May 2020. Please refer to MOF’s press release dated 21 April for more details.
  4. Includes employers of temporary staff and employment agencies who are employers of contract or temporary staff that are deployed to provide services to the service buyer.
  5. The Government training support schemes include extensive course fee subsidies and Absentee Payroll support provided by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG). Training will be conducted through e-learning during Circuit Breaker. Employers should visit the Enterprise Portal for Jobs and Skills for a list of courses approved for Absentee Payroll Funding.
  6. Please note that the online acknowledgement to receive the May FWL rebate has closed as at 22 May 2020.

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