MOM: From Jan. 2022, employers can fire unvaxxed employees as a last resort

"A fully vaccinated workforce will be able to operate more safely and at much lower risk to employees’ lives," said MOM.

Joshua Lee | October 25, 2021, 05:22 PM

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Employers will be allowed to terminate contracts with unvaccinated employees as a last resort, according to a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) advisory that was issued on October 23.

MOM said that currently, the chance of contracting Covid-19 is "far higher" than one year back due to a higher incidence of Covid-19 and the more infectious Delta variant.

However, the ministry, along with tripartite partners, recognises the urgency to be able to sustain business activity as much as possible, in order to protect livelihoods.

"A fully vaccinated workforce will be able to operate more safely and at much lower risk to employees’ lives," said MOM.

Hence, in response to the Multi-Ministry Taskforce's recent announcement that only vaccinated employees (or those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 270 days) can return to the workplace from January 1, 2022, MOM issued guidance relating to work arrangements for unvaccinated employees.

If work can be performed from home:

For unvaccinated employees whose work can be performed at home, employers may allow them to continue to work from home but such working arrangements remain the employers’ prerogative.

The ministry added that prolonged absence of unvaccinated employees from the workplace may affect their individual performance as well as negatively impact team or organisational performance.

If work cannot be performed from home:

Employers can continue to allow unvaccinated workers to work in the existing job with Pre-Event Testing done at the employees' own expense and time (i.e. outside of working hours).

Employers can also redeploy unvaccinated workers to suitable jobs which can be done from home — if such jobs are available. Remuneration must commensurate with the responsibilities of the alternative jobs.

Employers can also place unvaccinated workers on no-pay leave.

As a last resort, employers can terminate employment with unvaccinated employees.

"If termination of employment is due to employees’ inability to be at the workplace to perform their contracted work, such termination of employment would not be considered as wrongful dismissal," said MOM.

Special considerations

The ministry also provided special considerations for unvaccinated employees who are medically ineligible for vaccines under the National Vaccination Programme (NVP) as well as pregnant employees.

The former should be allowed to work from home if they are able to do so and their absence from the workplace should not affect their performance assessment. They can also be redeployed to more suitable jobs if required.

Pregnant employees should be "strongly encouraged" to take up vaccination said MOM.

"Employers are strongly encouraged to give special consideration to the needs and concerns of their pregnant employees," said the ministry, adding that the support given to those who are medically ineligible for vaccines should also be extended to pregnant employees.

You can read the full advisory here.

Top image: Mothership file photo