Days off, free medical consultations: Companies roll out support for employees taking COVID-19 vaccine

Days off, free medical consultations: Companies roll out support for employees taking COVID-19 vaccine

FILE PHOTO: A medical worker prepares to dilute a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a coronavirus
A medical worker prepares to dilute a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Singapore on Mar 8, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: As Singapore begins to vaccinate younger age groups against COVID-19, some companies have introduced measures to encourage employees to get their jabs and to support those who may suffer side effects.  

The registration exercise for Singaporeans aged 12 to 39 began on Jun 11. This is a big group of about 1.5 million people, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung had said. 

READ: Singaporeans aged 12 to 39 can register for COVID-19 vaccination from Jun 11

Beyond giving employees time off to get vaccinated, companies CNA spoke to said they have other support initiatives in place.

At Singtel, for instance, employees are entitled to sick leave on the day of vaccination. They can also work from home for a week after if they feel unwell, said the company's chief human resources officer Aileen Tan.

Employees are also covered under the company’s insurance plan, which defrays the cost of medical expenses for any sickness or disability resulting from the vaccination, said Ms Tan. She added that Singtel also invited infectious diseases expert Dr Leong Hoe Nam to clarify any doubts staff members may have about the vaccine.

More than 90 per cent of Singtel employees in frontline roles, such as retail staff and field engineers, are fully vaccinated, said Ms Tan.

READ: More than 26,000 students sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations on first day of registration

At OCBC Bank, employees taking the vaccine are given a day off for each appointment, as well as private taxi reimbursement to and from the vaccination centres.

If they experience side effects, they may take an additional two days of medical leave without needing to provide a medical certificate. The company will reimburse any medical consultation fees as well, said Mr Ernest Phang, head of corporate services under group human resources.

“For those who decided to go ahead with (getting vaccinated), we will provide the necessary support to them because we understand the anxiety and stress that comes from having to make such a decision," he added.

Similarly at UOB, those who suffer side effects can tap the company's appointed panel of clinics for free medical consultation. They also have life and health insurance that covers COVID-19 infection and vaccination side effects.

“Those who feel unwell after the vaccination are advised to consult a doctor immediately and to be on medical leave as advised by the doctor,” said head of group human resources Dean Tong.

The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine include fever, chills, headaches, joint pain and tiredness. 

"Most side effects are mild or moderate, and usually get better within a few days," said the Ministry of Health.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), side effects after the second shot may be more intense than after the first dose.

In addition, younger people are more likely to experience side effects compared to older people, said the CDC.

READ: 'Very small risk' of heart inflammation after second dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine: Singapore expert committee

To allow employees to obtain online approval for essential facility visits and report COVID-19 cases, Sembcorp Industries has come up with an app that was developed in-house.

“With the health and safety of our employees as our top priority in this pandemic, Sembcorp has introduced a COVID-19 app for employees to obtain online approval for essential facility visits, as well as to report cases,” a spokesperson said.

The app also allows employees to provide voluntary updates on their vaccination status.

READ: Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to be allowed in Singapore under special access route after WHO approval

Companies CNA spoke to stressed that it is important for employees to rest if they don't feel well after vaccination. 

“In the event that (employees) feel unwell after their vaccination, we encourage them to take ample rest to recover,” said an NTUC FairPrice spokesperson, adding that as frontline workers, its employees were given priority for vaccination earlier this year.

“FairPrice encourages all staff to be vaccinated, and to allay any concerns as well as to address queries, we invite medical experts to conduct online talks so that staff are better informed on the benefits of vaccination.

“Our leadership team also seeks to motivate staff by serving as an example and going for the vaccination when it is their turn,” the spokesperson said.

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Source: CNA/cc(gs)

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