COVID-19: More than 1,000 calls, visits made each day by MOM to ensure work pass holders adhere to leave of absence

COVID-19: More than 1,000 calls, visits made each day by MOM to ensure work pass holders adhere to leave of absence

Call centre for workers on LOA at MOM
Voice and video calls are made out of a makeshift call-centre at the Ministry of Manpower's Bendemeer Road service centre to ensure work pass holders returning from mainland China adhere to the 14-day leave of absence requirement. (Photo: Zhaki Abdullah)

SINGAPORE: To contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday (Feb 12) said it makes more than 1,000 calls and visits every day to ensure work pass holders adhere to a mandatory 14-day leave of absence (LOA). 

This comes after it was announced on Feb 6 that all workers returning from mainland China would have to take a 14-day leave of absence. 

On Sunday, MOM said it had revoked the work passes of four people and suspended the work pass privileges of six employers found violating the LOA requirements. 

Mr Felix Ong, who is employment inspectorate director at MOM's foreign manpower division, told reporters on Wednesday that the ministry takes a three-pronged approach when enforcing the LOA. 

READ: Employers must notify MOM of workers returning from China ahead of leave of absence

As part of enforcement efforts, all workers serving the LOA are sent text messages several times a day, at random hours, which require them to update MOM of their location within an hour, said Mr Ong. 

Secondly, officers based at MOM’s service centre on Bendemeer Road will make random calls to workers. 

These include both voice and video calls, which may require workers to show these officers their surroundings.  

MOM will make checks with employers if calls are not answered. 

Lastly, enforcement officers from the ministry will also conduct random checks on workers’ residences to ensure they adhere to the LOA. 

“We also ask about their well-being, which includes their salary, whether or not their employers deduct their salaries,” said MOM enforcement operations senior manager Keith Aw. 

Checks also involve checking on whether their accommodation arrangements for the duration of their LOA are acceptable, he added.

READ: Manpower ministry revokes 4 work passes for Leave of Absence breaches, suspends employer privileges

Though the leave of absence is required for everyone returning to Singapore from China, MOM’s efforts are focused on work pass holders, said Mr Ong, adding that the onus is on employers to ensure locals adhere to the LOA.

Mr Ong notes the LOA differs from a quarantine in that affected individuals are allowed to leave their residences for reasons such as buying food or other necessities. 

However, returning to the workplace, or going out for non-essential trips such as to the cinema would be considered violations of the LOA. 

MOM visit to worker on LOA
Ministry of Manpower enforcement operations senior managers Ms Ong Peishi and Mr Keith Aw visit a work pass holder on leave of absence at her Bedok South residence on Wednesday (Feb 12 2020). (Photo: Zhaki Abdullah) 

PRIORITY FOR ESSENTIAL SERVICES IN ALLOWING WORK PASS HOLDERS TO ENTER

MOM also requires that existing work pass holders who are entering or returning to Singapore must have the ministry’s approval before they can travel to Singapore.

In a statement, the Manpower Ministry said it has approved about 200 such applications a day since these requirements came into place on Feb 8. 

“We give priority to applications in essential services such as healthcare, transport and waste management, so that operations in these sectors are not compromised,” said an MOM spokesperson. 

“Other factors taken into consideration include whether the employers have arranged for suitable premises to house the returning workers for the duration of their LOA, and the need to stagger the entry of the workers to manage their return in an orderly manner.”

READ: All workers with travel history to China must seek approval before entering Singapore: MOM

The ministry also revealed details regarding its LOA support programme, which allows eligible employers to apply for S$100 per day per affected worker - including Singapore citizens, permanent residents (PRs) and work pass holders who have travelled to mainland China on or before Jan 31.

These employers will also qualify for a levy waiver for affected foreign workers during the LOA period.

Individuals travelling to China after Jan 31, 2020 are not eligible for the scheme. 

Self-employed Singapore citizens and PRs who are required to serve an LOA can also apply for the S$100 daily support. 

However, this support is not applicable for employers and self-employed individuals if they have telecommuting arrangements which allows for work to be done remotely.

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Source: CNA/az(rw)

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