Career News (April 2020)

Local news on the labour front for April 2020.

Highlights of manpower news in Singapore this month included:

Tripartite partners issue joint May Day message

For the first time, tripartite partners National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) – issued a joint May Day message, pledging their solidarity with workers in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, and their steadfast commitment to protecting lives and livelihoods.

“We are prepared to do what we can to protect livelihoods and ensure the sustainability of businesses,” they said in their message, which was co-written by NTUC president Mary Liew, NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and SNEF president Robert Yap.


Survey: Most Singaporeans keen to continue working from home after circuit breaker ends

A ongoing survey by Engagerocket in partnership with the Singapore HR Institute (SHRI) and the Institute for HR Professionals has shown that 90% of employees here wish to continue working from home in some capacity after the circuit breaker ends. Across some 2,700 respondents as of April 28, 10% said they would want to continue working from home for a quarter of their usual working time. However, despite employees’ willingness to continue working from home, almost half of the respondents reported a fall in their productivity while doing so.


14 workplace deaths this year

From 1 January to 17 April this year, a total of 14 workplace deaths were recorded. This is an increase from 9 workplace deaths over the same period last year. The workers who died were in the construction, manufacturing, logistics and transport industries. Deaths included workers who fell from height, or accidents with machine operation.


Employment rate plunges in Q1, largest drop since SARS

Singapore’s total employment in the first quarter saw its sharpest drop since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, as the impact of Covid-19 was felt across industries. However, employment of locals – Singaporeans and permanent residents – still grew at a “modest pace”, according to preliminary data released by MOM. Local employment grew in the first quarter of the year in the healthcare and professional services industries as well as in public administration.


Employers are urged not to retrench workers or cut their pay, however wages are likely to be hit

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) urged firms to keep workers without resorting to no pay leave, or retrenchment, during the circuit-breaker where many businesses have had to cease operations temporarily. They recommended sending employees for training and capitalizing on government grants instead.

Government grants include the Jobs Support Scheme, which covers 75% of all local employees’ wages this month, up to the salary ceiling of $4,600, as part of supplementary budget measures to save firms and jobs amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The first payouts went out on 15 April to more than 140,000 employers.

However, smaller businesses are already struggling to stay afloat and may have “no choice” but to send employees on no-pay leave or resort to retrenchment.

MAS has stated that wages are more likely to be hit than employment, but workers in the retail trade, food and beverage, and recreation sectors are most vulnerable to layoffs. The MAS noted that wage cuts are likely to occur swiftly and sharply in the financial services as well as transportation and storage industries, where pay is highly responsive to changes in business cycle conditions, pointing out that transportation and storage activity is expected to be most heavily affected by virus containment measures.


Firms that do not use Jobs Support Scheme payouts for workers face punishments

MOM is investigating employers who do not pass the Jobs Support Scheme payouts to their workers. Companies which reduce their employees’ salaries or put them on no-pay leave during the slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic will receive correspondingly lower payouts in subsequent tranches, and may also be punished by denying them future payouts and waivers or curtailing their work pass privileges.


MOM publishes mental health advisories to deal with Covid-19 measures

The Government is urging companies to support their worker’s mental well-being during the coronavirus pandemic when the economy has been hit and workers may feel insecure about their jobs. Suggestions in the MOM advisory include regular meetings and maintaining a clear flow of communication.


Website for income relief scheme applications for self-employed closes after massive surge in applications

The self-employed person income relief scheme (SIRS) website closed down on 28 April due to surge in traffic, reopening at 7:30pm the same day. The errors left many applications unfinished. In response, NTUC assured applicants that the payments they receive will not be impacted by when they apply for the scheme.


Financial institutions to continue to offer jobs, internships

Financial internships such as Citi Singapore and OCBC Bank are continuing to offer internships and jobs to fresh graduates who face a touch hiring climate due to Covid-19. These initiatives go beyond government-led efforts such as the paid traineeships scheme that was announced last month. These offers include the potential for a job offer upon completion of the internship, as well as other incentives.


Freelancers take up work in coronavirus-related industries to tide over

Event emcees, videographers and other freelancers have taken up new gigs as safe distance ambassadors or private delivery drivers in the current situation. Though they earn much less, the temporary employment will help them make ends meet over this period.


SIA cabin crew redeployed to care for patients

Starting in the second week of April, some SIA cabin crew were redeployed to help care for patients are Khoo Teck Phuat hospital and other hospitals. SIA Group has committed to providing at least 300 care ambassadors to various hospitals, depending on each hospital’s needs. They will be assigned to low-risk wards and support hospital care teams by carrying out basic care-giving procedures, nutritional care and patient service management. The collaboration between the hospitals and SIA should help boost manpower needs, as more healthcare staff have been reassigned to care for Covid-19-related patients.


Return to Work Plan for injured workers to return to workforce sees results

The Return to Work programme was introduced in 2017, and helps employers make adjustments to workplaces and jobs to facilitate the rehabilitation of injured workers, and helps workers recover and return to work as soon as possible, such as by conducting physiotherapy. About 95% of participants have been successfully placed back to work, an improvement from a rate of around 75% before the programme was introduced, Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said.


Singapore firms cutting salaries, freeze hiring or consider retrenchments, poll shows

A poll conducted by human resources consultancy Mercer Singapore showed that as the Covid-19 pandemic hits businesses, 3% of companies surveyed last month in Singapore have cut staff salaries while another 5% are considering the option. Meanwhile, 11 % of firms have reduced their salary increment budget and another 22% are considering doing so. Of the 232 companies it surveyed, 1% are considering retrenchments, while 22% expect to freeze hiring this year. These companies are from industries such as manufacturing, retail and wholesale, banking, energy and high-tech.


Government agencies hire temporary workers to cope with Covid-19

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) took to the lead in helping workers in affected industries, hiring 200 survey interviewers and other positions. In some cases, MOM will pay for their work along with their employers, who will pay their base salaries.


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