Unvaccinated Staff May Be Terminated As Last Resort If WFH Not Possible
Then last weekend, unvaccinated people were told that they wouldn’t be allowed at their workplaces from 1 Jan.
It turns out their rice bowls will be affected even more. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has advised employers that it won’t be considered wrongful dismissal if they sack unvaccinated staff.
However, these employees should be those who can’t work from home (WFH) and are unable to do the jobs they’re supposed to do at their workplaces due to their status.
MOM says a fully vaccinated workforce will be safer
In an updated advisory issued on Saturday (23 Oct), MOM recognised that sustaining business activity is urgent to protect livelihoods.
They’re also of the view that a fully vaccinated workforce can operate more safely, with a much lower risk to lives.
Hence, as Singapore tries to reopen businesses, they’ll allow staff to return to the office from 1 Jan only if they’re:
- fully vaccinated
- recovered from Covid-19 recently, or
- tested negative at their own expense
To support this move, MOM seeks to guide employers on unvaccinated employees’ work arrangements in connection with it.
Unvaccinated staff who can WFH may be allowed to
Unvaccinated staff who can WFH may be allowed to keep on doing so, MOM said.
However, this should be at the employers’ prerogative.
The ministry also added that prolonged workplace absence of unvaccinated staff might “affect their individual performance” and have a detriment on the performance of the team or organisation.
This will be more pronounced as “the vast majority” of vaccinated employees return more often to the workplace.
Few good options for unvaccinated staff who can’t WFH
For unvaccinated staff who can’t WFH due to the nature of their job, the situation would be more complicated from 1 Jan.
They would have to pay to take a Covid-19 test outside of working hours if they continue working as per normal.
If they can be transferred to jobs where they can WFH – provided these are available – they might have to accept lower pay if these jobs are deemed to have fewer responsibilities.
The last option would probably be the worst: Go on no-pay leave or be terminated from employment with notice.
MOM said this option is a last resort if the employee can’t be physically at the workplace to do the job they were hired for.
Termination of employment for such a reason won’t be considered wrongful dismissal, the ministry added.
Concessions for medically ineligible staff
However, MOM said employers are advised to make concessions for certified employees as medically ineligible to take the vaccines.
They should consider the following options:
- allow them to WFH if possible, and don’t let this affect their performance appraisals
- transfer them to positions where they can WFH if available, with commensurate pay
- exempt them from vaccination requirements if they’re needed at the workplace
Unvaccinated pregnant staff should also be considered for these concessions, but they’re encouraged to get jabbed as soon as possible.
Employers allowed to ask vaccination status of staff
To facilitate employers to “push” their staff to get vaccinated, they’re also allowed to ask their staff for their vaccination status, said MOM.
This is so they can plan the deployment of staff at the workplace.
Employers can also ask employees for proof of their vaccination status before they report to the workplace.
Staff who refuse to disclose their status can be automatically treated as unvaccinated, the ministry added.
Bosses can now check their company’s vaccination rate at go.gov.sg/percentvaccinated.
You may be asked for vaccination status at an interview
Additionally, the next time you go for a job interview, don’t be surprised if they ask for your vaccination status.
That’s because employers may also extend vaccination checks to potential hires.
MOM said in an FAQ on vaccinations that companies are allowed to require newly hired staff to be vaccinated.
This is so that they can plan deployment at the workplace.
Thus, the time may come when people are turned down for a job just because they’re not vaccinated.
Vaccinations will be necessary for work
As Covid-19 doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, companies may be getting increasingly anxious to get their staff back into the workplace.
In Singapore, it looks like vaccinations will be the way that this will be allowed sooner rather than later.
What’s clear is that a vaccination won’t just be something you need to dine out or go shopping. It’ll become increasingly important in your working life too.
Will this be the final push to convince the holdouts? We can only wait and see.
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Featured image by TheSmartLocal.