Unvaccinated Not Allowed At Workplaces From 15 Jan Even With PET

Since Singapore started implementing vaccination-differentiated measures in August, the spaces that welcome people who’re not yet fully vaccinated have become fewer and fewer.

From 15 Jan, they won’t even be allowed to step into their workplaces, even with a negative Pre-Event Testing (PET) result.

Their rice bowls will now be affected even more – The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has advised employers that they can sack unvaccinated staff as a last resort.

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This is when they can’t do their contracted job at the workplace due to their vaccination status.

98% of workforce vaccinated

In an updated advisory issued on Monday (27 Oct), MOM said Singapore has made “considerable progress” in ensuring our workers are vaccinated.

As of that date, 98% of our workforce is vaccinated, not including self-employed persons.

A majority of companies – 80% as of 19 Dec – have even achieved 100% vaccination for their workforces.

52,000 workers still unvaccinated

However, there are still a significant number of holdouts.

To date, 52,000 workers have still not taken any dose of a vaccine, MOM said.

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Of this number, about 6,700 are aged 60 and above, but “only a small proportion” are medically ineligible.

These people are “at a very high risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19 infection”, MOM added.

Worse still, the emergence of the Omicron Variant “significantly raises” the chances of  getting infected.

Thus, if unvaccinated employees get Covid-19, they’ll “put immense strain on our healthcare capacity in the coming months”, especially if they’re older, the ministry said.

PET concession removed

At the same time, 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 15 Jan only if they’re:

  1. fully vaccinated
  2. recovered from Covid-19 with 180 days, or
  3. certified medically ineligible for vaccines

The concession that allows the unvaccinated to return to the workplace with a negative PET result will be removed – except for those partly vaccinated, who must complete their regimen by 31 Jan.

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This is to protect the medically ineligible as well as the unvaccinated, MOM said, as by not coming to the workplace,

…unvaccinated employees are protected from being exposed to the threat of the virus.

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 Work From Home (WFH) may be allowed to, if their employers  find that this meets their needs sufficiently.

companies WFH fined MOMSource

However, MOM 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.

Termination is last resort after exploring other options

For unvaccinated staff who can’t WFH due to the nature of their job, the situation would be more complicated from 15 Jan.

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.

They can be placed on no-pay leave, on mutually agreeable terms – but this will affect their livelihood.

The last option would probably be the worst: Be terminated from employment with notice.

MOM said this option is a last resort, after exploring the above 2 options.

But 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, they added.

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Consideration for medically ineligible & pregnant

There are, however, workers who’re medically ineligible and/or pregnant, and MOM has advised employers that they can give them special consideration.

Those who’re certified as medically ineligible for all vaccines under the National Vaccination Programme (NVP) are allowed to work on-site.

However, they should consider the following options:

  1. allow them to WFH if possible, and don’t let this affect their performance appraisals
  2. transfer them to positions where they can WFH if available, with commensurate pay

Employers are strongly encouraged to give the same special consideration to the needs and concerns of unvaccinated pregnant staff too, and shouldn’t terminate their employment.

They can also explore extending no-pay leave to them until they’ve delivered, without affecting their rightful maternity benefits.

Employers allowed to ask vaccination status of staff

To facilitate the remaining 20% of employers to “push” their staff to get vaccinated, bosses can now check their company’s vaccination rate at go.gov.sg/percentvaccinated.

Employers must 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, MOM said.

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To encourage staff to get jabbed as soon as possible, employers should grant them paid time-off to do it, including for boosters.

They should also allow them additional paid sick leave if the employee has a vaccine-related adverse reaction.

MOM urged the remaining 2% of unvaccinated workers to get vaccinated as soon as possible, to “protect their well-being and avoid any impact to their jobs and livelihoods”.

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 adapted from MOM on Facebook. Photo for illustration purposes only.