Thursday, March 30, 2023

Employers May Debar Non Vaccinated Employees from COVID-19 Benefits

Employers May Debar Non Vaccinated Employees from COVID-19 Benefits

Singapore’s tripartite partners released the latest guidelines on COVID-19 vaccinations and testing with regard to employees. The newly implemented guidelines recommend that employers can either encourage existing employees and newly appointed employees to get vaccinated or take up regular COVID-19 tests. The regulations are backed by The Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and Singapore National Employers Federation (Snef).

The latest guidelines surpass previously released norms which only required vaccinations in high-risk workplaces. Employers are at the liberty to demarcate reasonable workplace measures as per their requirements, subject to the health and safety of workers.

Employers need to inform their workers about the newly adopted regime in advance and prepare their workforce as well as job seekers before October 1. On the point of different workplaces and the vaccination measures associated with it, Tripartite Partner mentioned that employers should consult the respective unions about the same.

The guidelines further empower employers to debar employees from COVID-19 medical and healthcare benefits, if they refuse to get vaccinated or pay for COVID-19 tests. It is pertinent to point out that employers are not allowed to fire workers merely on the basis of vaccination status. Although, if the unvaccinated employee refuses to comply with the workplace-specific COVID-19 rules, the employment is subject to termination at the employer’s discretion. The Tripartite Partners revealed that the testing and other medical expenses can be recovered from employees, by salary deductions or by paying directly to the service provider. As far as leaves are concerned, if the leave entitlements are exhausted, the additional leaves will not be paid.

The guidelines further mention the frequency of COVID-19 tests required, if the employer opts for vaccinate-or-test-regime and if the worker is unvaccinated. As per the recommendations by the Ministry of Health, unvaccinated employees need to get themselves tested twice a week, subject to the sector or place of work. In the case of social gatherings, if guests are unvaccinated, either the number of guests can be reduced or pre-event testing can be necessitated. Employees also need to furnish vaccination status before heading for any business operations that include travel or some gathering.

Speaking about the deployment and re-deployment of employees, MOM, NTUC and Snef said, “While employers may continue to deploy unvaccinated employees in higher-risk activities with regular testing, they can also decide whether to redeploy these employees to another job with a lower risk of COVID-19 infection, commensurate with the employee’s experience and skills, as per existing redeployment policies. If there are no existing redeployment policies within the organization, the terms and conditions for redeployment should be mutually agreed between employers and employees”.