COVID-19: What Employers Need to Look Out for When Handling Employees on Remote Working 2020

WFH

Since the start of Circuit Breaker from 7th April 2020, many companies that are not listed as Essential Services have no choice but to implement remote working for their employees. Even as Circuit Breaker measures are gradually lifted after 2nd June 2020, there are still many companies that prefer to continue with remote working as they observe the Covid-19 situation.

 

Remote working is definitely the norm now, and even big tech companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook have allowed their employees to work from home for the rest of the year.

 

Covid-19 and remote working have posed some unique challenges for a workforce that is based out of an organization’s premises. The pandemic has caused significant disruptions to work arrangements. With the lack of physical interaction, communication amongst employers and employees is more important than ever before. Employers not only need to juggle between work supervision, but they also need to maintain fairness in handling work relationships, as well as consider the other aspects that come with remote working.

 

As the Covid-19 situation improves, will remote working be here to stay? Be it Yes or No, we believe that employees should be taken care of the same way they would be in a physical office environment.

 

Handling Employees on Remote Working

 

  1. Health and Well-being of Employees

Covid-19 and Circuit Breaker measures have taken a toll on the mental health of many Singaporeans. It has been extremely stressful for some employees who may be worried about the uncertainties of their livelihood or having problems adjusting to the new way of life.

 

Working remotely for long could also lead to social isolation. The Government has advised employers to check in on their employees to ensure mental well-being, and how they are coping with the work arrangements.

 

  1. Grievances At Work

The lack of interaction could cause miscommunication amongst colleagues or even with the bosses. When there are grievances at work, employers need to ensure that a fair and consistent process is allowed for employees to be able to raise their grievances without fear of negative repercussions. 

 

A fair investigation should also be carried out to resolve the issue, and employers should advise appropriate measures to be taken to prevent co-working relationships from worsening.

 

For more on grievance handling policy, please refer to the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.

 

  1. Work Injury Compensation

Work injury compensation insurance covers employees who are injured out of and during the course of their work. In this case, during remote working arrangement, the workplace is at home. So as long as an employee sustains an injury at home while performing work activities, it falls under the employer’s liability. 

 

Employers have to compensate their employees for injuries sustained during work-from-home arrangements, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad in Parliament on Thursday, 4th June 2020.

 

  1. Income Tax Deductions on Work-From-Home Expenses

On 2nd June 2020, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has stated that tax deductions will be allowable for expenses that are “incurred wholly and exclusively in the production of employment income”. 

 

This means that employees now have the option to claim tax deductions for expenses incurred while working from home, such as for electricity and telephone bills, against their employment income during next year’s income tax filing. 

 

While it may be difficult to calculate the exact amount of additional expenses incurred, IRAS has given a few examples of how employees can do so. For example, employees can compare bills from before and after remote working, and claim for the differences incurred.

 

However, if the employer has already reimbursed the additional expenses incurred from remote working, then the employee will not be able to claim for tax deductions next year.

 

Although employers also have their own concerns such as business sustainability and cash flow issues to worry about, employees’ well-being should not be neglected. Employees are the pillar of an organization, and employers should continue to show support and check in on their mental well-being from time to time. Even when employees are put on involuntary no-pay leave, they are still part of the company.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many unprecedented events such as Circuit Breaker measures, closure of shopping malls and nationwide remote working (where possible). Singaporeans should help one another to go through this difficult time and emerge stronger together.

 

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