Majority of workplaces to be shut down in Singapore
Except for essential services and key economic sectors, all work premises in Singapore will be ordered to shut down from April 7. Making the announcement on April 3, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “If a person can work from home, he should do so. We have to ensure that most of our workforce stays at home and limit their physical interaction to as few people as possible.”
The lockdown, which will last till 4 May before being reviewed, will not extend to essential services such as food establishments, markets and supermarkets, clinics, hospitals, utilities, transport and key banking services. “We should not disrupt economic sectors that are strategic or form part of a global supply chain,” said Lee. “People working in these industries can continue to go to work, with safe-distancing measures in place. But most other work premises must close.”
This latest announcement comes on the back of earlier amendments made to Singapore’s Infectious Diseases Act, which will see the introduction of fines and even jail terms for employers who do not make facilities available for their employees to work from home “where reasonable”. Those who fail to do so can be fined up to S$10,000, jailed for a maximum of six months or both. This will now also apply to employers who fail to comply with the new regulations.
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will begin enforcement actions on April 7 to ensure that only businesses exempted from the suspension are operating from their workplaces. “For employers who cannot work from home or at their workplace premises, employers should work out with them clear salary and leave arrangement, based on the principle of shared responsibility,” MOM said. “Such arrangements should take into consideration the government support for wages and any subsidies for training.”
To provide more support for businesses, workers and households, Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister will be announcing a third round of support measures in the form of the “Solidarity Budget” on Monday, April 6. This will supplement the S$48 billion “Resilience Budget” Singapore unveiled last month, where more than one-third of the budget was dedicated to saving jobs and supporting workers.