COVID-19: Employers shouldn’t penalise employees who request to not go on work-related travel – MOM

A female traveller seen wearing a face mask at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on 6 February 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has advised employers not to penalise any employees who ask to not go on any work-related travel and should accede to the request amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.   

The guideline is from an updated MOM advisory issued on Monday (16 March) to employers covering both work-related and non-related travel following the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) announcement that the public is advised to defer all non-essential travel.

Work-related travel

Employers should review work-related travel plans and defer all non-essential travel, the MOM said. They should explore alternative ways of business communications such as video-conferencing.

“If work-related travel cannot be avoided, employers must ensure that their employees’ health is adequately protected in accordance with MOH guidelines,” the MOM said. 

Employees on work related travel must not incur additional leave or expenses on their own, including medical, accommodation or daily expenses, if they are quarantined overseas or have contracted COVID-19. 

For employees who are affected by any COVID-19 related measures, employers are expected to provide additional paid leave to the employee concerned. These include for quarantine or self-isolation period imposed by the destination country on the employee; delay in employee’s return to Singapore, due to circumstances such as flight availability and need for MOM’s pre-entry approval to allow for return of foreign employees; and mandatory stay-home notice (SHN) or company-imposed leave of absence (LOA) that the employee may be required to serve upon his return to Singapore.

Non-work-related travel by employees

Apart from reminding employees about MOH’s latest travel advisory, employers should obtain a travel declaration from their employees, on whether they have any upcoming overseas travel plans, including to affected areas covered by mandatory SHN requirements.

For non-work related and non-essential travel outside Singapore, if an employee were to still travel overseas, the employer may require the employee to use his annual leave entitlements to cover the duration of any mandatory SHN, company-imposed LOA duration, or any extended period of travel in the destination country. 

If the employee does not have enough annual leave entitlements, the employer may allow the employee to take advance leave or put the employee on no-pay leave. Employers are reminded to be fair and apply the relevant HR policies to all employees.

The LOA/SHN support programme for employers and self-employed persons will not be applicable for travel that commenced after 15 March. In other words, employers and self-employed persons will be eligible for the $100 daily support when affected workers serve out mandatory SHN requirements if their travel out of Singapore commenced on or before 15 March.

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