Tripartite Advisory on Workplace Measures to Tackle Influenza A (H1N1-2009)
The Tripartite Advisory on Workplace Measures to Tackle Influenza A (H1N1-2009)
was issued on 30 April 09 to slow down the spread of the Influenza A (H1N1-2009), and minimise the impact on businesses and workers. Following the recent announcement by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on the gradual transition from containment to mitigation approach, the tripartite partners, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) / Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), in consultation with MOH, have revised and expanded the Tripartite Advisory on Workplace Measures to Tackle Influenza A (H1N1-2009).
MINIMISING WORKPLACE DISRUPTIONS
2. Employers should closely monitor Influenza A (H1N1-2009)-related developments, and follow travel and health advisories provided by the Government. These may be accessed at www.moh.gov.sg
or www.flu.gov.sg. The information should be communicated regularly to employees.
3. Employers should start planning early to ensure that disruptions are minimised and that their businesses remain viable during this period, and prepare themselves to implement their business continuity plans. They could also consult the Singapore Business Federation (contact details below) when developing and implementing such plans. Employers are encouraged to brief employees on the business continuity plans.
INFECTION CONTROL MEASURES
4. Employers are strongly encouraged to implement infection control measures at the workplace, including:
a. Maintaining environmental cleanliness to minimise transmission of the Influenza A (H1N1-2009) virus, including frequent disinfection of common areas.
b. Advising employees to maintain high standards of personal hygiene, such as washing hands frequently with soap and water, and covering their noses and mouths with a piece of tissue paper when they cough or sneeze. Those who have flu-like symptoms should be asked to seek medical help, in accordance with the latest MOH advisories.
c. Checking the MOH website for the latest update on countries affected by Influenza A (H1N1-2009) so that a considered decision can be made on whether to proceed with business travel plans. They should similarly advise their employees to check the list of countries before making any non-work related travel plans. In the event that travel to countries with sustained community transmission of the Influenza A (H1N1-2009) is unavoidable, employees should take precautionary measures, such as avoiding crowded areas and contact with anyone who appears unwell, and maintaining high standards of personal hygiene at all times.
LEAVE OF ABSENCE
Absence from work under Home Quarantine Order
5. If Home Quarantine Orders (HQOs) are served on persons by the MOH, the period of absence from work necessitated by HQOs should be treated as paid hospitalisation leave, as part of the employee's hospitalisation leave eligibility under their employment contracts, collective agreements or under the Employment Act.
6. For employees who have used up their hospitalisation leave, employers are urged to exercise compassion and flexibility by granting additional paid hospitalisation leave, as the employees concerned may face financial hardship during this time.
Absence from work without Home Quarantine Order
(i) Absence from work due to work-related reasons
7. For employees who are required by employers to stay at home for reasons that are attributable to work (e.g. if they need to stay at home for a period and check for symptoms of flu-like illness after returning from a business trip), the employers should continue to pay them their salaries during their period of absence. To minimise work disruptions, employers could arrange for telecommuting and remote communications access systems (e.g. teleconferencing) to allow the employees to work from home.
(ii) Absence from work due to non work-related reasons
8. If the employee has returned from non-work related travel (e.g. for leisure or other personal reasons), the employer may, as a precautionary measure, require the employee to consult a doctor. The employer may also request that the employee stay away from the workplace (e.g. to practise social distancing). In such a situation, the following arrangements could be considered:
a. The employer may implement alternative work arrangements such as tele-commuting to minimise work disruptions. Employers are encouraged to be flexible when implementing such arrangements.
b. For employees who have chosen to travel to known affected countries on their own accord (e.g. for leisure or other personal reasons) and are requested by the employer to stay away from the workplace upon return, the employer could grant them special leave of absence, with or without pay, based on the circumstances of the individual company and workers. The employer could also request the employees to take annual leave, treat the leave of absence as sick leave, grant time-off or no pay leave if annual leave has been used up. By mutual agreement, employers and employees/unions could also agree on other arrangements for employees' leave of absence relating to Influenza A (H1N1-2009) to share the costs incurred by the leave of absence. Employers are encouraged to be flexible and compassionate when implementing such arrangements.
9. For employees who need to stay away from the workplace, such as taking leave to take care of family or childcare commitments, employers are also encouraged to adopt a flexible and enlightened approach in implementing flexible work arrangements as well as allowing employees to take their leave (e.g. annual leave, childcare leave and unpaid infant care leave). For employees who have used up their leave entitlements, employers could consider granting them no-pay leave during the period of absence.
10. In situations where large numbers of workers are affected, and where companies' operations are seriously disrupted or if the companies face potential closure and need to manage costs, employers could implement measures e.g. to redeploy workers or temporarily layoff workers who are requested to stay away from the workplace. The implementation of such measures, including how leave of absence should be treated, should be carried out in consultation with employees / unions (if the company is unionised).
CONCLUSION - STAYING UNITED IN TACKLING THE FLU PANDEMIC
11. The tripartite partners would like to encourage employers and employees to work closely to prevent and slow down the spread of the Influenza A (H1N1-2009) and minimise the impact to businesses and employees. Employers should take precautionary steps by putting in place infection control measures and business continuity plans, and be considerate towards the needs of their employees. On their part, employees should also cooperate with the company so as to minimise disruption to businesses. Both employers and employees should also exercise social responsibility by practicing social distancing, maintaining high standards of hygiene and adhering to the advisories issued by Government on the Influenza A (H1N1-2009).
12. For queries on the above advisory or advice on employment issues related to the Influenza A (H1N1-2009), please contact the following:
a. Ministry of Manpower
MOM Contact Centre, Tel: (65) 6438 5122
b. Singapore National Employers Federation
Duty Consultant, Tel: (65) 6327 9297 (Weekdays, 9 am to 5.30 pm)
c. Singapore Business Federation
Member Relations and Services Group, Tel: (65) 6827 6844
Capacity Building Group (For enquiries on Business Continuity Management)
Tel: (65) 6827 6867
d. National Trades Union Congress
Industrial Relations Department, Tel: (65) 6213 8233