The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) of Singapore has warned that it will be issuing stop-work orders on firms that do not take serious efforts in making work-from-home arrangements during the pandemic.

Speaking at a multi-ministry task force briefing that was held virtually on Tuesday, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said they are now considering to amend laws to increase fines and other penalties for companies who will fail to follow government’s policies that will help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Teo stressed “If the company is really not taking it seriously at all, then we have no choice and will not hesitate to issue a stop-work order.” She noted that the period of such order would depend on the severity of the case.  

The Singaporean government has been taking the lead on telecommuting, with 90% of employees from agencies like the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the Urban Redevelopment Authority working remotely.  

“Telecommuting is a critical part of safe distancing, particularly in workplaces… There is a lot of scope for us to do more, especially the private sector firms,” she said.

MOM has assessed that only 40% of the workers in the country’s Central Business District are telecommuting despite repeated advisories to reduce contact at work.

“Employers must allow your employees to work from home as far as reasonably practicable… If the nature of work can allow for work to be done from home, companies should ensure that all the employees work from home” Teo stressed.

The minister said that they will be stepping up enforcement and increase the number of officers up to five-fold in order to strictly conduct checks and monitoring on all companies.

Teo said that despite the strict enforcement, the government is also looking at ways to help companies successfully implement telecommuting as well as grants that will aid them to pay workers with flexible work arrangements.

“Companies that need help implementing telecommuting can approach the Singapore Manufacturing Federation, the Employment and Employability Institute or the Singapore National Employers Federation for assistance on how to do so,” she said. 

As of Wednesday, Singapore has recorded 926 cases of COVID-19, with three deaths.

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