COVID-19: A breakdown of the stricter measures introduced to combat the coronavirus in Singapore during the Circuit Breaker period (7 April 2020 to 4 May 2020) and financial assistance available for Employers

By Seow Hui Goh, Natasha Cheng

04-2020

Restrictions in relation to workplaces and the conduct of work

In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Singapore government announced nation-wide "circuit-breaker" measures on 3 April 2020. The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 ("COVID-19 Regulations") kicked in on 7 April 2020 and will remain in force till 4 May 2020. It may also be extended, as needed to combat COVID-19.

Among these measures are the mandatory suspension of all businesses, with the exception of "Essential Services" and their related supply chains, unless these businesses can be conducted through telecommuting.

Only essential service providers are permitted to continue to operate:

(a) at the permitted premises of the essential service provider;
(b) with the prior permission of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI);
(c) in accordance with the conditions or restrictions for that type of business, undertaking or work prescribed by MTI.

A comprehensive list of essential services can be accessed at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/essentialservices/

Movement Restrictions

The COVID-19 Regulations deal strictly with the movement of people, including restrictions on leaving or entering residential premises, prohibitions on social gatherings and maintenance of safe distancing.

As announced on 14 April 2020, it is mandatory for all in Singapore to wear a mask when outside of their homes. This applies when using public transport, taxis, private hire cars, walking to or at markets, and also for essential workers at all workplace premises, whether they are frontline staff (such as food handlers, cashiers and bus drivers) or performing back office functions (such as data entry personnel and payroll executives). Mask wearing is not recommended for young children under the age of 2. Individuals engaged in strenuous exercise outdoors (e.g. running) may also remove their masks, but must put it back on once completing their exercise.

First-time offenders will be issued composition offers of S$300, and repeat offenders will face higher fines or prosecution in court for egregious cases.

Enhanced measures for workplaces which remain open

For workplace premises which remain open, cross-deployment or movement of workers is prohibited. Employers must implement safe-distancing measures at the workplace and ensure that employees working on-site are wearing masks.

The Ministry of Manpower and other enforcement agencies will continue with inspections and may take enforcement action. First-time offenders (i.e. essential service providers, owners or occupiers) will be issued composition offers of S$1,000, and repeat offenders will face higher fines or prosecution in court. Further, if any staff member working at the workplace premise becomes infected, essential service providers may be directed to suspend their operations.

Government support and subsidies

Jobs Support Scheme (JSS): All active employers under the Jobs Support Scheme will receive 25% cash grant on the first S$4,600 of the gross monthly wages of each local employee on their Central Provident Fund payroll.

Companies in Food Services will receive up to 50% of the first S$4,600 of the gross monthly wages of each local employee (inclusive of the 25% base support).
The grants are further enhanced for companies in the aviation and tourism sector, who will receive up to 75% of the first S$4,600 of the gross monthly wages of each local employee (inclusive of the 25% base support).

These grants will cover 9 months of wages, and will be paid in 3 tranches to employers (i.e. 1st pay-out in April 2020, 2nd pay-out in July 2020, 3rd pay-out in October 2020). The JSS support for the 1st pay-out will be topped up to 75% for all active employers to support employers during the Circuit Breaker period.

Deferment of Income Tax Payments and Tax Rebates: Corporate income tax payments due on April, May and June 2020 will be collected in July, August and September 2020, respectively. Landlords of non-residential tax properties will also receive tax rebates, with a view that these savings should be passed onto to their tenants, in the form of rental reductions.

Enhanced Financing Support: To support the working capital of Small & Medium Enterprises (SME), the maximum loan quantum for the Enterprise Financing Scheme – SME Working Capital Loan (EFS-WCL) and the Enterprise Financing Scheme – Trade Loan (EFS-TL) has been significantly enhanced from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. Increased support has been given for the Loan Insurance Scheme (LIS) from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. The Temporary Bridging Loan Programme (TBLP) (previously for tourism sector only) has been expanded to all sectors from 1 April 2020.