As Singapore takes its next step towards living with COVID-19, the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”), the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) (collectively, the “Tripartite Partners”) have issued a revised set of guidelines for employers on the COVID-19 measures to be implemented at the workplace applicable from 26 April 2022 which significantly relaxes the previous workplace safe management measures (the “MOM Guidance”)[1].

This post considers the MOM Guidance and other related guidance issued by the Ministry of Health (“MOH”)[2] and associated data privacy considerations under the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (“PDPA”). It supersedes our previous post here.

Unvaccinated employees will no longer be prohibited by law from entering the workplace

With Singapore achieving one of the highest vaccination rates in the world (at 96% of its eligible population), the legal requirement for employees returning to the workplace to be fully vaccinated has been lifted from 26 April 2022. This means that unvaccinated employees are no longer prohibited by law from entering the workplace.

That said, taking into consideration workplace health and safety and operational needs , employers are given the flexibility to (continue to) implement vaccination-differentiated requirements for their employees, including disallowing unvaccinated employees from entering the workplace, as a matter of company policy and in accordance with employment law. For instance, employers in the healthcare sector may be concerned about the higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 and severe infections for both their employees and patients, while employers whose businesses require frequent travelling may need vaccinated employees who will face fewer obstacles in making business trips[3].

For unvaccinated employees whose jobs require working on-site as determined by the employers under such a company policy, employers may:

  • Redeploy them to other suitable jobs if such jobs are available, with remuneration commensurate with the responsibilities of the alternative jobs; or
  • Place them on no-pay leave based on mutually agreeable terms; or
  • As a last resort after exploring options above, terminate their employment (with notice) in accordance with the employment contract.

Employers should continue to facilitate vaccination by granting paid time-off to employees (including vaccination booster shots), and additional paid sick leave (beyond contractual or statutory requirements) in the rare event that the employee experiences a vaccine-related adverse reaction.

Obtaining employees’ vaccination status

Should an employer decide to continue with the implementation of vaccination-related measures for employees for workplace health and safety and business continuity reasons, the employer should ensure that it complies with the provisions of the PDPA when collecting and using personal data[4] from an employee (including personal particulars and vaccination status).

In particular, employers must obtain their employees’ informed consent prior to the collection, use and disclosure of their personal data[5], unless an exception exists in the PDPA or it is required or authorised under any other written law, and develop and implement reasonable security arrangements to protect such personal data from unauthorized access, collection, use, disclosure, copying, modification, disposal or similar risks[6].

While 100% of employees can now return to the workplace, flexible work arrangements are strongly encouraged

All employees (including interns, part-time staff, etc. who are under a contract of service) may now return to the workplace. This is an increase from the previous limit of 75% of employees who can work from home. Employees returning to the workplace are encouraged to self-test when they feel unwell or had recent contact with an infected person.

At the workplace, mask wearing is required indoors except when (i) not interacting physically with another individual, and (ii) not in customer-facing areas where interaction is likely to happen. Safe distancing will no longer be required between individuals or between groups.

All employees are still advised to exercise social responsibility and maintain an appropriate safe distance from others while unmasked. Employers are also encouraged to retain and promote flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting and staggered work hours (to avoid peak period crowds), as a permanent feature of the workplace. In this regard, the Tripartite Partners also issued a statement on flexible work arrangements on 22 April 2022[7] (“Tripartite Statement”). In the Tripartite Statement, employers are strongly encouraged to continue offering flexible work arrangements to employees, as a key permanent feature of the workplace to achieve better work-life harmony and promote a more engaged and productive workforce. It has been announced that the public service will take the lead, with all eligible public officers in job roles which are conducive to hybrid work to be allowed to telecommute for an average of two days a week.

TraceTogether and SafeEntry will no longer be used

With MOH’s cessation of the issuance of Health Risk Notices to close contacts of infected individuals, the use of TraceTogether (“TT”) and SafeEntry will be stood down. Workplaces may no longer require employees to check in using the TT application or token.

COVID-19 vaccination remains a condition for long-term passes, work passes and permanent residence

Since 1 February 2022, COVID-19 vaccination has been a condition for the approval or grant of new long-term passes, work passes, dependant passes, as well as permanent residence. This requirement also applies to renewal of existing work passes.

Further, at the point of application for work passes, employers are required to make a declaration that their work pass holders and their dependent(s) are fully vaccinated upon arrival in Singapore. Work pass holders are also required to submit or present their vaccination certificates as part of the verification process[8].

However, this vaccination condition does not apply to the following groups of individuals: (a) individuals below 12 years old; (b) individuals aged 13 to 17 years old – they can continue to make a declaration to complete the full vaccination regimen after arriving in Singapore; however, those arriving from 1 July 2022 onwards will be required to be fully vaccinated prior to entry into Singapore, unless medically ineligible for vaccines[9]; (c) work pass holders who are medically ineligible for vaccination, provided they submit a doctor’s memo at the point of application, and undergo a medical review upon arrival in Singapore.

Therefore, employers should keep in mind such vaccination requirements before seeking to employ or relocate foreign employees in Singapore.

We would like to thank our trainee Ernest Cheong for his contribution to this post.

[1] See Requirements for Safe Management Measures at the workplace updated as of 22 April 2022.

[2] See Further easing of community and border measures issued on 22 April 2022.

[3] See Updated advisory on COVID-19 vaccination at the workplace issued on 23 October 2021.

[4] “Personal data” is defined under Section 2 of the PDPA to include “data, whether true or not, about an individual who can be identified (a) from that data; or (b) from that data and other information to which the organisation has or is likely to have access.”

[5] Sections 13 to 15 of the PDPA. “Informed consent” means that the employee has been informed by the employer of the purpose for the collection, use and disclosure of his/her personal data, pursuant to Section 20 of the PDPA.

[6] Section 24 of the PDPA.

[7] See Tripartite Statement on Flexible Work Arrangements (mom.gov.sg)

[8] See Annex A to MOM press release dated 26 December 2021

[9] See Further easing of community and border measures issued on 22 April 2022

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