Covid-19: Singapore preschool and primary school students to be placed on 14-day leave of absence if they live with overseas returnees

Preschool and primary students will be placed on a 14-day leave of absence if they share a household with a person who has returned from overseas, starting 11.59pm on March 25, 2020. ― TODAY file pic
Preschool and primary students will be placed on a 14-day leave of absence if they share a household with a person who has returned from overseas, starting 11.59pm on March 25, 2020. ― TODAY file pic

SINGAPORE, March 25 — Preschool and primary school students living in the same household as those who have returned from overseas will be placed on a 14-day Leave of Absence (LOA) starting at 11.59pm today, said the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social and Family Development yesterday.

Students who live with persons who have returned from the United Kingdom, United States or Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries on or after March 14 will also be placed on LOA, the ministries added.

The LOA will start from the day the person in the household returned to Singapore, said the ministries in a joint statement.

“These measures are in addition to the earlier announced 14-day LOA issued to students and staff of schools, preschools and student care centres if they returned from overseas on or after March 14,” they added.

The ministries also said that employers are encouraged to provide flexible work arrangements for their employees to accommodate these “exceptional circumstances”.

This announcement comes after the multi-ministerial task force yesterday announced further tightening measures to minimise the spread of Covid-19 here.

These include the closure of all bars and entertainment venues such as nightclubs, discos, cinemas, theatres, and karaoke outlets where there is a high risk of transmission due to sustained close contact of customers.

Gatherings outside of work and school have also been limited to 10 persons or fewer, and physical distancing of at least 1m must be implemented in settings where interactions are non-transient, such as in queues and waiting areas.

Aid for SMEs, firms with foreign workers, construction firms

In a separate statement yesterday, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) also announced a suite of measures to help businesses cope during this period:

1. Three-month extension of the levy payment timeline to small-and-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with immediate effect

This means that SMEs will have up to five months to pay the foreign worker levy from the month it is incurred before revocation action kicks in. This temporary relief measure will apply to levies incurred this year. 

Currently, employers who fail to make levy payment on the due date will have their new and renewal work pass applications rejected, while two consecutive months of late or non-payment of levies will result in all existing work passes being revoked.

MOM estimates that about 60,000 firms will benefit from this measure. It added that employers who use the extended payment timeline are encouraged to retain existing workers and should not be employing new foreign workers.

2. Levy waiver extended to 90 days for foreign workers on overseas leave

Currently, MOM allows levy waiver for up to 60 days for foreign workers who go on overseas home leave for at least seven consecutive days, and this will be extended to 90 days with immediate effect for foreign workers who are currently on overseas leave as well as those who are sent home from now until the end of the year. 

3. Man-Year Entitlement (MYE) refund for construction firms

MOM said it has worked together with the Singapore Contractors Association and the Building and Construction Authority on a temporary scheme to refund unutilised MYE due to work disruptions from Covid-19.

The MYE reflects the total number of work permit holders whom a main contractor is entitled to employ based on the value of projects or contracts awarded by developers or owners.

MYEs are unutilised due to work disruptions from delays in overseas supplies and entry of foreign construction workers due to travel restrictions.

Now, firms have the flexibility to refund unutilised MYE within one year to hire new workers or renew existing ones. This relief measure will be available for a period of six months starting from April 1. 

Under usual arrangements, any unused MYEs are currently forfeited which means construction firms cannot fully utilise the MYEs allocated for their projects. Contractors would thus have to hire foreign workers on higher levy rates, resulting in higher costs. ― TODAY

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