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The COVID-19 journey so far - Singapore

02 June 2020
The story so far for Singapore during the COVID-19 pandemic and what returning to the workplace in the post-lockdown environment may look like.
As the COVID-19 crisis deepened, Singapore enforced “circuit breaker” measures imposing movement restrictions and the government introduced new legislation and financial schemes in support of both employers and employees.
One of the most significant measures introduced was the Jobs Support Scheme (“JSS”), which is intended to support employers in retaining and continuing to pay their local employees (Singaporeans and Permanent Residents) during this period of reduced business activity. Under the JSS, the Singapore government has committed to co-fund, by way of cash subsidies, either 25%, 50% or 75% of the first S$4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to each local employee, with the sectors hardest hit by the crisis, such as aviation and tourism, eligible for the highest tier of subsidies. 

Under temporary enhancements to the JSS, the JSS payout was subsequently raised to provide 75% of wage support to all businesses, regardless of sector, with respect to wages paid for the months of April and May 2020. The JSS has also now been extended by an additional month, bringing the total wage support under the JSS to 10 months.

Employers are reminded to act responsibly and fairly during the circuit breaker period. Where there is evidence of irresponsible and unfair treatment, employers may be denied employment support, including financial support under the JSS, and certain privileges may also be curtailed.

From lockdown to return to work

Singapore will exit its circuit breaker on 2 June 2020, with measures to be lifted progressively in three phases. 

Under the first phase, businesses that operate in settings with a lower risk of transmission will be allowed to resume. Businesses not yet allowed to resume operations will continue to receive 75% of support under the JSS during the period for which they are not allowed to resume operations, or until Aug 2020, whichever is earlier. Employers allowed to resume operations will revert to receiving the tier of support that is appropriate to their sector.

Employers are only allowed to resume operations once they put in place and demonstrate that they will be enforcing prescribed mandatory Safe Management Measures at the workplace. Checks will be conducted by the authorities and employers that fail to provide a safe workplace, or whose employees do not adhere to the Safe Management Measures, will have to close their workplaces.

Where employees are able to perform their work by telecommuting, employers must ensure that this continues to be adopted to the maximum extent possible. Employees should return to the office only where it is demonstrably necessary. To clarify, this is where employees need access to specialised systems or equipment that cannot be accessed from home, or to fulfil legal requirements such as completing contracts or transactions. 

To support employers with their return to work planning, we have prepared a step by step guide on the key measures and employment checklist. 

Please see our Singapore employment checklist for a step by step guide on the key measures to consider >

Return to the global overview page to review the story so far in other locations >

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