HR in The News | July 2021

Katie Ash

Jul 1, 2021

This past month in Singapore has seen the easing of some safe distancing restrictions, and an increase of positivity towards COVID response efforts as vaccination take-up rates rise. However the surge in cases near Bukit Merah caused a small set back in expected loosening of other restrictions, including dine-in being restricted to two persons instead of five, and work-from-home remaining the default for Singapore based companies.

Here is a round up of the top HR news stories, updates, and insights from the past month in Singapore.

◾ Singapore maintains WFH as default arrangement, extends jobs support:

As restrictions continue to be eased as Singapore transitions through Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) in the coming weeks, the government has maintained that working from home will continue to remain the default for businesses. However the Jobs Support Scheme, which subsidises the salaries of local workers, will also be extended for affected sectors.


◾ Singapore companies advised to test staff regularly for COVID-19:

Enterprise Singapore has advised that employers with staff who need to work in high-risk environments should implement testing for them on a regular basis. Such staff would include those who work in places where there is a high density of people who are unmasked and in close proximity for extended periods of time.

ESG has advised employers whose staff are not on polymerase chain reaction rostered routine testing to test them regularly using alternatives such as antigen rapid tests.


◾ Are your workers worried about vaccine safety?

A recent survey found that nearly half of employees remain doubtful that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for use. However acceptance and perception around the safety of the shots are improving across Asia, including in Singapore. This is translated in Singapore’s current ‘healthy’ rate of vaccinations, which have prevailed despite supply constraints.

Government bodies like health authorities remain the most trusted source of vaccine information. This is followed by updates from family doctors or general practitioners. The study also found that perception around the vaccines also improved as more shots are administered around the world.


◾ Singaporeans 'unhappiest' workers in the world:

Singaporeans have done it again – we’re once again labelled as the unhappiest workers in the world. A new study has found that nearly one in two employees are unhappy at their current workplaces, and an overwhelming majority (82%) will not recommend their company to a friend.

Singaporeans showed a high level of concern for their mental health, with more than half (52%) rating it over career satisfaction (35%). Unfortunately, employers are failing to meet workers’ mental health needs. The study found a clear mismatch between what’s currently offered by companies and employees’ desired level of support. While 68% of employers said they’re monitoring and supporting employee’s mental health, less than half (41%) of workers agreed with the statement.


◾ Workplace safety guidelines to include disease outbreaks & mental well-being:

Guidelines to better manage risks from disease outbreaks and ensure mental well-being will be added to a code of practice for workplace safety and health by this year. This comes amid a spate of fatal workplace accidents.


◾ Singapore’s MAS and IBF update training support measures for local workforce until July 2022:

On 25 June (Friday), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) announced an update to their training support measures that aim to build capabilities and strengthen employability of the local workforce. This will see employees receive an updated rate of training grant allowance after 30 June, and fee subsidies of up to 80% from 31 December 2021 until 1 July 2022.


◾ Turn technology to your advantage in the new hybrid workplace:

Despite the popularity of remote-work apps like Zoom and Slack during the pandemic, studies have found that the most effective communication tools are still the most low tech.

When the pandemic blended our professional and personal lives by forcing many of us to work from home, we learned a valuable lesson about tech. It can be an incredibly useful tool for communicating with colleagues. But when used without care, it can hurt our productivity and our relationships.


◾ Eight factors to consider when creating a new hybrid plan:

Developing an effective, safe and productive approach to hybrid work takes planning and work across the enterprise. Work scheduling, management processes, systems and tools, benefits policies and much, much more all have to be factored in. Here are several considerations that might be less obvious but are nevertheless highly important.

🔸 Focus on culture

🔸 Continue to build out a collaborative technology platform

🔸 Establish a listening platform and culture


◾ Singapore employers to get S$2.2 billion in wage subsidies:

Under the Jobs Support Scheme, more than 140,000 employers will receive wage subsidies totalling S$2.2 billion (US$1.6 billion) from June 30.

Employers who have made mandatory Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions for their local employees for the months of January to March 2021 by the stipulated deadlines will qualify to receive the payout.


◾ Singapore’s Q1 labour market outlook:

According to Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower's latest labour market report, the unemployment rate remained elevated in Q1, however total employment increased, hiring activity increased, and re-entry rates have improved.

There are five key findings:

  1. Total employment grew by more than the preliminary estimates released in April. Non-resident employment continued to decline, but at a slower pace.
  2. The number of retrenchments and re-entry rate among retrenched residents improved to pre-pandemic levels observed in 2018 and 2019.
  3. Hiring activity increased, while unemployment rates continued to ease.
  4. Job vacancies rose for the third consecutive quarter.
  5. The ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons rose significantly.


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