MOM Fines 42 Firms For Safe Distancing Breaches, Most Told Staff To Return To Office

MOM Fined 42 Companies Between Sep 28-15 Jan, Will Step Up Inspections Of Workplaces

Since Singapore has moved into Phase 3, some bosses might think working life at the office should return to normal.

That means all staff should return to the office even though they can work from home (WFH), and they can mingle without safe distancing.

However, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) begs to differ, as it has fined 42 companies in the last few months for breaching safe management measures (SMMs).


Most of the companies that were fined had told their staff to return to the office despite them being able to WFH.

Workplace rules were last relaxed on Sep 28

On Sep 28 last year, MOM relaxed the rules in workplaces somewhat, allowing more workers to return to the office.

However, they didn’t allow companies carte blanche to bring back employees any way they liked, as before Covid-19.

For example, the ministry said shift and team arrangements should be retained, as well as the staggering of reporting times.


On 22 Jan, the MOM said in a statement that they would not make any changes to these rules for now, despite Phase 3 having started on 28 Dec.

Hence, WFH should still remain the default arrangement.

MOM officers have been inspecting workplaces

To make sure companies are following the rules, MOM officers have been inspecting workplaces since Sep 28, when the rules were last relaxed.

A total of 5,380 workplaces were checked between Sep 28 and 15 Jan, MOM told The Straits Times (ST).

Photo for illustration purposes only.

Of these workplaces, 42 were fined because they didn’t follow the SMMs prescribed for workplaces.

Having staff physically present still important for some firms

It seems that for some companies, having staff physically present in the office is still very important.

That’s because among the 42 companies fined, most of them were guilty of making their staff return to the office for work, even though they could WFH.

Another frequent infraction was failing to ensure the staff that returned to the office followed safe distancing by placing clear markers in common areas.

Photo for illustration purposes only.

MOM will step up inspections

The MOM has said they’ll step up inspections of workplaces, reported ST.

During these inspections, employers will be advised on what areas they should keep an eye on.


However, the vast majority of firms have been following SMMs, the ministry added.

MOM shut down workplaces after previous inspections

The recent inspections weren’t the 1st time MOM has targeted workplaces.

On 3 Jun, as Phase 1 just started, its inspections found that 3 workplaces had recalled all their employees to work without valid reason. They were thus shut down.

Photo for illustration purposes only.

Subsequently, on 15 Jan, MOM shut down 7 more workplaces. 6 of them had too many staff in the office despite them being able to WFH.

They also fined 52 workplaces for failing to comply with SMMs.

Recent Covid-19 community cases were at workplaces

Some companies might wonder why the MOM hasn’t relaxed the rules further, given that we’ve moved into Phase 3.

In its statement on 22 Jan, the ministry cited “recent trends” of Covid-19 cases in the community as 1 reason.

It hasn’t escaped attention that out of the 4 clusters that are still active, 3 of them originated in the workplace. They are:

  1. The NewOcean 6 bunker tanker cluster, with 13 cases.
  2. The police para-vet cluster, with 7 cases.
  3. The BS Industrial & Construction Supply cluster, with 8 cases.

Covid-19 is still circulating silently among the community.

Because of the long hours spent at work, as well as the ingrained mindset not to seek medical attention or take MC when feeling unwell, Singaporeans have a high likelihood of getting infected while working.


As such, it’s not a good idea to relax workplace safe distancing rules yet.

Staggered work timings suggested

The MOM has also cited the increase in peak-hour travel on public transport as a factor.

It’s been previously reported that this has gone up by 11% in Jan.

Thus, even if staff have to return to the office, employers should allow them to report for work during off-peak periods.

They can do this by staggering their starting times, and MOM has advised that at least 50% of staff who’re coming to the office should start on or after 10am.

Public-sector workplaces like the Ministry of Transport (MOT) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) has already set an example with flexible workplace arrangements for staff.

Staying safe at the workplace

The last thing that companies would want during this time is for their office to be declared a Covid-19 cluster and shut down.

Thus, they should follow the rules that are ultimately designed to keep all their staff safe.

Hopefully, the errant companies that were fined have learnt their lesson the hard way.

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