What Should Employers Do If Workers Return A Positive ART Self-Test?

Employee test postive on ART

During PM Lee’s national address on 9 October 2021 (Saturday), he noted that “we should now drastically simplify our health protocols”. This came quite soon after we ourselves had written about the various notices that individuals could be served with, and how employers could manage the situation.

In the latest MOH update, there will now be a single approach from 11 October 2021. Instead of going to the hospital or seeing a GP, the advice is to self-isolate and recover from home. This will reduce the strain on Singapore’s healthcare resources.

For employers, they will have to manage the situation as well – with more employees potentially taking ART self-test and having to isolate at home.

Read Also: Home Recovery; QO; LOA; SHN; HRW; HRA: How Should Employers Treat Their Employees’ Who Cannot Come To Work

Scenarios Where Employees May Return Positive ART Test Results

#1 Fast and Easy Testing (FET) Routine Rostered Testing (RRT)

For many employees who have to return to the workplace, they would likely already be on a Routine Rostered Testing (RRT) regime. 

This means relevant companies will conduct Employer Supervised Self Swabs (ESSS) once a week via ART. Employers will also have to register for their Swab Registration System (SRS) account beforehand, so they can upload the test results.

Once an employee tests positive on an ART self-test, businesses should advise the employee to stay home and isolate for the first 72 hours (3 days). They should also encourage the employee to take a follow-up ART self-test. This does not need to be carried out under supervision nor does the result need to be uploaded. Follow-up ART self-test should not use government-supplied ART kits under the FET regime. 

After 72 hours, employees can take an ART self-test again. If they test negative, they can end their isolation and return to work. If they continue to test positive, they have to remain in self-isolation. They should take an ART self-tests every 24 hours until they return a negative result. Thereafter, they can resume daily activity, including returning to work.

Read Also: 6 Things To Note About The Fast and Easy Testing (FET) For Employees (According to MOH)

#2 Employees Who Need To Return To The Office

Employees who are able to work from home, but need to return to the office for ad-hoc reasons, can do so by returning a negative ART self-test result. A negative test result should be returned before employees go into their workplaces.

If they return a positive result, the employee should isolate for the first 72 hours (3 days). After 72 hours, employees can take an ART self-test again. If they test negative, they can end their isolation and return to work. If they continue to test positive, they have to remain in self-isolation. They should take an ART self-tests every 24 hours until they return a negative result. Thereafter, they can resume daily activity, including returning to work.

#3 Employees Are Close Contacts Of Infected Persons

Individuals may be issued an HRW if they are identified as a close contact of a person who is infected with COVID-19.

Once they are issued an HRW, individuals must do an ART self-test and upload the results. This is a requirement on the individual and not the employer. If they test negative, they can continue with their normal activities for the day, including reporting to work. They also have to return a negative ART self-test on Day 2 to Day 7 if they want to go out of their homes (i.e. going into office).

If the individual returns a positive result on any of the tests, they will have to isolate for the first 72 hours (3 days). After 72 hours, employees can take an ART self-test again. If they test negative, they can end their isolation and return to work. If they continue to test positive, they have to remain in self-isolation. They should take an ART self-tests every 24 hours until they return a negative result. Thereafter, they can resume daily activity, including returning to work.

#4 Employees Are Unwell And Test Positive

For employees who are under the weather, they may want to take an ART self-test.

If they test positive, employers should encourage them to visit the doctor if they are not feeling well. They will likely have to take a PCR test. This means their close contacts (e.g. household members and close working colleagues) may receive HRWs.

The current default care arrangement for those with COVID-19 is the Home Recovery Programme (HRP). If they visit the doctor, they will likely be given a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test – which is reserved for those feeling unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms.

Once they are on HRP, they will need to isolate for 10 days if they are vaccinated or 14 days if they are unvaccinated. In such a scenario, the Employment Act protects such employees with paid hospitalisation leave.

Read Also: Medical Benefits That Businesses Have To Legally Provide For Their Employees In Singapore

How To Treat Employees Who Are Unable To Come To The Workplace/Work

When employees return a positive ART self-test, they will be unable to come into work. Employers should not ask such employees who are feeling physically well to return to the workplace.

Furthermore, MOM states that individuals do not need to (and should not be asked to) take a PCR confirmatory test unless they are:

  • Persons who are working in healthcare and eldercare settings
  • Persons who work or study in pre-schools or primary schools
  • Persons under a quarantine order, stay-home notice or have received a Health Risk Warning
  • Persons aged above 80 years old (vaccinated) or above 70 years old (unvaccinated)

Whether employees are able to do any work will depend on the nature of their job. If they can work-from-home, employers can expect their employees who are physically well to do so. If they are not able to work from home, MOM states that employers should have compassion in such situations. Employees on self-isolation should be treated as being on sick leave (i.e. either medical leave or hospitalisation leave without requiring any medical certificate). 

For reference, employees are entitled to up to 60 days of paid sick leave each year. This should be generally sufficient for such isolation requirements. MOM further states that employees should not be placed on no pay leave under such circumstances.

Unlike those identified as close contacts of COVID-19 cases, there are currently no restrictions on household members or close colleagues of those who return a positive ART self-test.

Read Also: 3 Things For Business Owners To Be ‘Positive’ About From PM Lee Address On Singapore’s COVID-19 Situation

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