Here’s What Companies Should Know About Paying Foreign Employees During Circuit Breaker

To ease labour costs for firms during this circuit breaker, it was announced under the Solidarity Budget that companies can get waivers for their Foreign Worker Levies and enjoy levy rebates for each work permit or S pass holder. 

In an advisory, the Ministry of Manpower has also reminded companies to provide salary support to foreign employee, and to implement reasonable wage-saving measures during this period. 

With new initiatives and restrictions rolled out quickly, you might have missed some of the key announcements for employers to take note. We put together some of the important aspects that you should know about your foreign employees during this period.

Foreign Worker Levy Waivers And Rebates

Employers will receive a waiver of March and April 2020’s Foreign Worker Levy, due in April and May respectively. 

MOM will also provide two levy rebates of $750. The first rebate is provided to those who have paid their levies up to December 2019 in full, and eligible for each S Pass or Work Permit holder in employment as of 29 February 2020. 

The second rebate is for each S Pass or Work Permit holder in employment as of 1 May 2020, and you must have paid your levies up to December 2019 in full. Lastly, you must also make an acknowledgment online, stating that you will use the rebates to continuing paying your foreign workers during this circuit breaker. 

If you have done this acknowledgement before May 8, you will receive your rebates on May 29. Otherwise, you must acknowledge by May 22 to receive your rebates via PayNow on June 19, or via cheque from July 3. 

Over 62,000 employers have already received their first round of levy rebates on April 21, via PayNow Corporate. Otherwise, for those relying on cheques, you should have received it from May 15 onwards.  

You do not need to apply for the levy waiver, as it will already be reflected in the levy bill here.

Guidelines On Paying Your Foreign Employees

The ministry has advised employers to pay salaries for their foreign employees, considering the levy waiver and rebates provided to support companies. MOM has said that while it is understandable if salaries for some EP and S Pass holdersto be reduced temporarily, but employers should still do so fairly and responsibly. 

Any unfair treatment towards foreign employees will lead to employers losing their future employment support, which includes the Job Support Scheme, Foreign Worker Levy rebate and waiver. Work pass privileges may also be suspended. 

Those who continue to work full-time during this circuit breaker must still be paid their prevailing salaries. For those who are not working, the amount of salary and housing support given to work permit holders in this period must not be less than the levy rebates of $750. 

For employers with foreign workers staying in dormitories, the ministry has released an advisory on salary payment for this. It is stated that employers must continue to pay for these workers, despite the stay-home notice for around 180,000 workers being extended to 18 May

Lastly, all employers with workers staying in dormitories must pay salaries electronically. That could be through GIRO or direct bank transfer. You are expected to apply for a bank account for those without one, as soon as possible.

Medical Coverage And Leave Arrangements

Under the Work Injury Compensation Act, employers are liable to compensate if their workers contract diseases from biological agents (including COVID-19), arising from and in the course of work. This still applies even for employees working from home now. It will not cover if COVID-19 was contracted through non-work activities.

That being said, the Government will cover the cost of inpatient COVID-19 treatment at public hospitals for all long-term pass holders This includes work pass holders, holders of In-Principle Approvals (IPA), Letters of Eligibility (LOE) and temporary work permits (TWP). As the employer, you should ensure your work pass holders present their work pass upon admission. Otherwise, your employee will be billed as a short-term visit pass holder instead.

As for leave arrangements, the ministry has advised for employers to grant additional paid leave to their foreign workers, if their 60 days of hospitalisation leave is used up from the quarantine. Alternatively, employers can create a time bank of unused working hours, which means that workers are now taking paid time off for the increase in working hours in future.

Work Pass Services During Circuit Breaker Period

All service centres are not operating during this period. For most time-sensitive deadlines, such as expiration of passes, extensions of stays or completion of medical examinations, the ministry has issued extensions. For more details on adjustment to work pass services, you may check the ministry’s page here.

You are strongly encouraged to defer new work pass applications, unless the foreign employee is already in Singapore. 

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