All employers in Singapore are encouraged to implement a regime that requires either all their workers to get vaccinated or undergo regular tests if they refuse the vaccination, Tripartite Partners announced on Monday (Aug 23).
Singapore’s vaccination rates are one of the highest in the world, but the Govt strives to optimize public resilience against COVID-19. As an effort to build a stronger community, from 1 October 2021, employees in selected sectors would be required to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing. The rule is termed a “Vaccinate or Regular Test” (VoRT) regime. The Public Service, as the largest employer in Singapore, will lead by example in implementing the VoRT.
Under the VoRT scenario, unvaccinated workers in selected sectors are required to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week using antigen rapid tests. Companies can also require employees who choose not to be vaccinated to bear Covid19-related costs such as test kits.
However, the Tripartite group in a statement makes it clear that an employer should not terminate or threaten to terminate the service of an employee on the basis of vaccination status alone. They should also not place employees on no-pay leave for an extended duration without their mutual consent in writing. However, employers can take disciplinary action or even terminate unvaccinated employees if they refuse to comply with reasonable vaccination-differentiated workplace measures.
Here is a brief summary of the guidelines:
Healthcare, eldercare, settings with children 12 years and below, sectors that interact with customers in higher-risk mask-off settings (e.g. F&B establishments, gyms and fitness studios, personal care services), etc.
Based on MOH’s reference, unvaccinated employees in selected sectors need to be tested twice a week. A test done under the existing Fast and Easy Testing (FET) or the Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) regime, which is either a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) or supervised FET, also counts towards this requirement.
Employers may ask unvaccinated employees to undergo Pre-Event Testing (PET) before participating in workplace events, or implement reduced group sizes when unvaccinated employees participate in such events, especially those involving mask-off activities.
Employers may continue to assign unvaccinated employees to work in higher-risk activities with regular testing. However, 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.
Employers can also, on their own accord, implement other workplace measures. In doing so, employers must be prepared to justify to employees and/or the Government (e.g. in the event of a dispute) that such measures are reasonable and necessary for business operations and to better protect the health and safety of all employees. Additionally, the union and the employer may mutually agree on other vaccination-differentiated workplace measures.
The VoRT regime will be implemented from 1 October 2021. The tripartite partners urge employers who adopt the VoRT regime as their company policy to communicate clearly and in advance to affected employees and jobseekers on the vaccination-differentiated workplace measures and any associated costs to employees who are medically eligible but decline vaccination.