The Ministry of Manpower has just released an Advisory on Covid-19 Vaccination in Employment Settings. Employers in the private sector have been looking forward to these guidelines since Covid vaccinations for the general population became available earlier this year, so as to come up with their own policies on employee vaccinations.
The Advisory is an easy read, and comes with FAQs which are very clear. The task of coming up with guidelines that would apply to all of the private sector and different communities and industries within it is mind-boggling. Please take 15 minutes to read them!
What is clear is:
(a) these guidelines apply to employees, but not to independent contractors, visitors, vendors or customers;
(b) most office workers cannot be required to get Covid vaccinations;
(c) most retail workers cannot be required to get Covid vaccinations;
(d) there will be penalties for employers who discriminate against vaccinated and non-vaccinated employees, and, more interestingly, there will likely be penalties for employers who discriminate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated job candidates; and
(e) employers cannot dictate which vaccine (specifically, Pfizer, Moderna or Sinovac) the employee chooses.
However, these guidelines do not dictate office building policies, e.g. whether the owners of an office building will require all tenants and their employees to be vaccinated and to show proof of vaccination.
They also do not dictate travel arrangements, hence, employees who are not vaccinated and who cannot produce “vaccine passports” may be declined entry into any number of countries, and this could hinder them from carrying out their job duties. Unfortunately, the guidelines do make it illegal to penalise any employee for not being vaccinated if they do not fall within special high-risk categories outlined in the Tripartite Advisory. Penalising an employee would include a demotion, pay cut, and of course, termination of employment. How the private sector in Singapore will react to these guidelines (which have a long-reaching effect over the next 3 to 5 years or so) remains to be seen.
For more information, please contact our Employment lawyer Ms Jennifer Chih.