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Employees may need to take annual leave for LOA after non-essential travel: MOM

FOR Singapore employees who insist on going abroad for non-work related and non-essential trips, their employers may require them to use their own annual leave entitlements to serve out any mandatory stay-home notice (SHN), company-imposed leave of absence (LOA) or extended period of travel in the destination country.

Employers may also allow such staff to consume advance leave or put them on no-pay leave if they do not have sufficient annual leave, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Monday night.

The statement comes a day after the Ministry of Health (MOH) advised the Singapore public to defer all non-essential travel to reduce the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus while overseas.

Monday's advisory - issued by tripartite partners MOM, the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation - is meant to guide employers on setting clear human resources (HR) policies pertaining to the treatment of workers who travel outside Singapore during the Covid-19 period.

"Broadly, such HR policies could include any company-imposed LOA from work, not exceeding 14 days, upon the employee's return," MOM said.

Unionised companies should consult the unions when developing their HR policies, it added.

All employers must communicate and explain the HR policies to their employees before implementing them.

Employers should remind their staff of MOH's travel advisory to defer all non-essential trips to all countries, MOM said. It also advised employers to obtain a travel declaration from staff on whether they have upcoming travel plans to, including but not limited to, the affected areas covered by mandatory SHN requirements.

As for work-related travel, employers should review their plans and defer all non-essential trips. They should instead explore alternative ways of business communications such as video-conferencing.

If work-related travel cannot be avoided, employers are expected to provide additional paid leave to the staff concerned, to cover: any quarantine or self-isolation period imposed by the destination country on the employee; any delay in the staff's return to Singapore due to circumstances such as flight availability; and any mandatory SHN or company LOA that the staff may be required to serve upon returning to Singapore.

Employers also ought to accede to workers' requests to not go on work-related travel, and should not penalise them for making such a request, MOM noted.

"The tripartite partners urge all employers and employees to reduce travel abroad as far as possible during this period," it added.