COVID-19 Updates for Singapore Employers: Cost Reduction, Mandatory Notifications, and Government Support from the Fortitude Budget

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Following the end of the circuit breaker period on 1 June 2020, Singapore is implementing a gradual resumption of business. During this period, employers are likely to continue to have concerns over cost-saving and business continuity measures and the government support available to them.

 

Since our previous article, there have been a number of updates and advisories from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) providing additional guidance to employers during the circuit breaker period and beyond. Shortly before the end of the circuit breaker period, the Singapore government had also presented the Fortitude Budget on 26 May 2020, which includes, among other things, additional support for employers.

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Reopening the Workplace During the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Employers Need to Know

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Singapore’s circuit breaker period came to an end on 2 June 2020 with the government introducing a three-phased approach for transitioning into a “new normal” and resuming economic activities safely.

With certain businesses reopening, the government is encouraging continued vigilance through a mix of statutory obligations as well as guidelines from the various government ministries. In terms of statutory obligations, the updated COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 includes specific obligations for employers, among others, to institute safe practices in the workplace. In terms of guidelines, the Ministry of Manpower has issued certain Safe Management Measures for general workplace settings and sector-specific guidelines for specific workplace settings.

This article aims to educate and provide guidance to employers operating post-circuit breaker on the requirements which may be relevant to them.

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Alternative Arrangements for Companies’ General Meetings

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We had previously written about the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act and its provisions for the Minister for Law to prescribe alternative arrangements for, among others, the holding of general meetings.

The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Alternative Arrangements for Meetings for Companies, Variable Capital Companies, Business Trusts, Unit Trusts and Debenture Holders) Order 2020 (Order) was published in the Gazette on 13 April (and subsequently amended on 14 April 2020 and on 24 April 2020) and is deemed to come into effect on 27 March 2020.

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COVID-19 Updates for Singapore Employers: Safe Distancing, Cost Reduction and Government Support

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This article was originally published on 3 April 2020 and last updated on 27 April.

As of 27 April 2020, Singapore has reported more than 13,000 cases and 12 deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the number of new cases in the local communities have started to level off, many of the new cases are unlinked, pointing to a larger, as-yet undetected reservoir of cases in Singapore. As such, there is the continued need to be vigilant in enforcing social distancing and isolation measures.

Even as countries all over the world begin increasing such preventative health measures, the pandemic is also devastating the global economy, including Singapore. During times of economic downturn and uncertainty, controlling fixed costs such as labour becomes even more pressing for companies. Businesses in almost every sector have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are looking to cut costs during this period of crisis. While every business faces unique considerations, the following guidance aims to clarify issues relating to safe distancing practices at the workplace, cost-saving and business continuity measures, and the available government support during this health and economic crisis for Singaporean businesses.

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Required Annual General Meetings for Singapore Companies During COVID-19 Restrictions

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The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the implementation of safe distancing measures as well as the current “circuit breakers” by the Singapore government. Many companies incorporated in Singapore are statutorily required to hold their annual general meetings (AGMs) while such control measures are in place, which may prevent AGMs from taking place by the stipulated period.

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