Employers Shouldn’t Make Staff With Positive ART Result Return To Office

As Covid-19 community cases escalate, Singaporeans are being encouraged to test ourselves regularly using Antigen Rapid Test (ART) self-test kits.

This is so we can detect any infections early and self-isolate.

However, some might have a burning question: Should I still go to my workplace if I test positive?

To that end, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has said that employees are entitled to go on paid MC if they can’t work from home (WFH).

Tell employer immediately when you test positive

MOM said this in an advisory released on Saturday (25 Sep) that’s meant to provide guidance to employers and employees.

They added that workers should tell their employer immediately when when they get a positive ART test.

Employers, in turn, should not ask such staff to return to the office.

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This is even if they’re physically well.

ART-positive staff should be allowed to WFH

Rather, employers should allow staff who test positive to WFH if they are able to.

If WFH isn’t possible, then the staff’s isolation period should be taken as paid sick leave.

MOM clarified that this can be either paid outpatient sick leave or paid hospitalisation leave, but staff shouldn’t be asked to take no-pay leave.

For this purpose, no medical certificate is required, the ministry added.

ART-positive staff should self-isolate if well

In keeping with the Home Recovery Programme for infected people who are physically well, Singaporeans are being advised to isolate at home if they test positive.

Thus, workers should self-isolate at home for 72 hours if they receive a positive ART test.

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However, they don’t have to take a subsequent Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, unless they:

  1. work in healthcare and eldercare settings
  2. work or study in pre-schools or primary schools
  3. are under a quarantine order (QO), stay-home notice (SHN) or have received a Health Risk Warning (HRW)
  4. are aged above 70 if unvaccinated, or aged above 80 if vaccinated

Repeat ART till negative

After self-isolating for 72 hours, the worker should take another ART.

If that comes out negative, they can return to their workplace and engage in daily activities.

However, if it comes out positive again, they should continue to self-isolate.

The ART should then be taken every 24 hours until a negative result is obtained.

Risk-calibrated approach towards infections

This method of managing ART-positive cases is a risk-calibrated approach, MOM said.

By making them self-isolate instead of rushing to a clinic or hospital, this reduces the exposure of infected individuals to other infections.

It also allows us to focus healthcare resources on Covid-19 patients with a higher risk severe illness.

Regular testing encouraged for exposed staff

Staff whose household members are physically well but test positive are encouraged to test themselves regularly via ART.

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They should also monitor their health for 10 days, MOM said.

Staff who’re close contacts of the ART-positive staff member have been advised to self-test regularly and monitor their health for 10 days, too.

As long as they get negative self-test results, they may return to the workplace if they can’t WFH.

However, they should restrict their interactions with other people as much as possible.

Vital to ensure workplace safety

As many of the daily cases reported come from workplace transmissions, it’s vital to ensure the safety of one’s staff.

While employers may prefer their staff to be physically present, making them do so after testing positive could be a matter of life and death.

Thus, it’s only right that paid sick leave is allowed for Covid-19, as with any other illness.

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Featured images adapted from Adolfo Felix @ Unsplash and Medakit Ltd @ Unsplash.