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Planning For An Overseas Holiday? Here’s Why You May Need More Days Of Annual Leave Than You Think

Budget for extra leave if you plan to travel outside of the VTLs


After almost two years of travel restrictions, the expansion of the vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) was music to the ears of travel-starved Singaporeans. As of 19 October 2021, a total of 10 countries (Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom and United States) have opened up VTLs with Singapore with an additional VTL with South Korea to start on 15 November 2021.

For many Singaporeans, this comes just in time for us to plan our end-of-year holidays and use up our accumulated annual leave after missing out on an overseas holiday last year. In particular, healthcare workers are now allowed to travel overseas after MOH lifted the suspension on overseas leave application for all healthcare workers on 19 October 2021.

Yet before you rush to book that flight, here’s what you need to know about your leave arrangements for travelling overseas during a pandemic.

Read Also: Cost Guide To Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs)

You Can Travel To Countries That Are Not On VTL Arrangements (If You Are Fully Vaccinated) For Leisure

Currently, according to MOH’s travel advisory (as of 19 August 2021), fully vaccinated residents may travel overseas to other countries/ regions that are not included in the higher risk countries/ regions, i.e. Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Unvaccinated or partially unvaccinated residents are advised to defer all forms of travel except for:

  • Travel to Category (I) countries (currently this is only China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan)
  • Overseas studies
  • Overseas employment
  • Essential travel for business, official and work purposes under Green/Fast Lane arrangements and the Periodic Commuting Arrangement
  • Compassionate reasons
  • Medical treatment that cannot be reasonably received in Singapore
  • Attendance of legal/ contractual obligations in country of residence

The purpose of your travels matters because it affects the treatment of your leave and salary arrangements when you return to Singapore.

If You Travel For Non-Work Reasons, Your Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) Period May Not Be Covered By Your Employer

If you are fully vaccinated and travelling to non-Category (I) countries or on non-VTL arrangements, you would be serving at least 7 days of SHN upon your return to Singapore.

For remote workers, returning from a country without VTL may not be an issue because you can continue to work remotely as you serve out your Stay-Home-Notice of 7 or 10 days.

However, for workers who are unable to work remotely, travelling for non-work purposes can be problematic if you travel to a country that requires you to serve SHN on your return. This is because MOM’s guidelines don’t cover leave arrangements for personal travels.

Source: MOM

Most likely, we would have to use our annual leave to cover this period of SHN when we are unable to work in-person. Depending on our employer and the nature of work, some of us may be able to make arrangements to carry out remote working tasks while serving out our SHN. However, for non-remote workers, it is better to err on the side of caution and budget additional days of annual leave when you apply for your overseas leave.

If you are travelling to a country that requires you to serve quarantine upon arrival, this could potentially mean spending 2 weeks of leave allowance just on quarantine and SHN, without factoring in your actual travel itinerary.

You Are Covered Under Paid Sick Leave If You Are Diagnosed With COVID-19 After Your Return

In the unfortunate situation that you test positive for COVID-19 after your return to Singapore, you can be assured that you would not be penalised for contracting the virus, based on MOM’s guidelines.

Employees are entitled to paid sick leave during treatment, up to their contractual or Employment Act limits (which is 14 days of paid sick leave a year, without hospitalisation or with hospitalisation, up to 60 days a year in total, including the 14 days). If you have already used up your paid hospitalisation leave, you may be placed on no-pay leave or granted additional paid hospitalisation leave, depending on your employer.

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

Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs)’ COVID-19 Treatment Are Covered Under Government Subsidies And MediShield Life / Integrated Shield Plan

Singaporeans (Citizens and PRs) who are travelling overseas can be assured that if we require COVID-19 treatment, we would still be eligible to receive subsidised healthcare at public hospitals and use our MediShield Life or Integrated Shield Plan coverage to pay for our treatment. This applies even if we travel for personal reasons.

For S Pass and Work Permit Holders, the employer is responsible for any COVID-19 treatment cost, even if the employee travelled overseas for personal reasons. Other pass holders such as Long-Term Pass Holders and Employment Pass Holders are responsible for their own COVID-19 treatment costs.

Read Also: Beginner’s Guide To Understanding How MediShield Life Works

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