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MOM unveils more measures to help firms cope with Covid-19

MOM unveils more measures to help firms cope with Covid-19

Source: Business Times
Article Date: 25 Mar 2020
Author: Claudia Tan

These include a three-month extension of the levy payment timeline for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a levy waiver for up to 90 days for foreign workers on overseas leave..

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced on Tuesday a series of new measures to help cushion the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on companies. These include a three-month extension of the levy payment timeline for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a levy waiver for up to 90 days for foreign workers on overseas leave and a Man-Year Entitlement (MYE) refund for construction firms affected by disruptions arising from Covid-19.

In addition, firms with excess manpower are "urged to prioritise locals to be retained in their jobs", MOM said in a press statement. Firms with excess manpower should also give consent for their existing foreign workers to be transferred to other employers in the same sector who are facing labour shortages.

With immediate effect, SMEs will be granted three additional months to make the levy payment, giving the firms up to five months to pay for the foreign worker levy from the month it is incurred before the work passes are being revoked. But firms will still be subjected to late payment penalty of 2 per cent monthly during the extension period. Previously, two consecutive months of late or non-payment of levies will result in all existing work passes being revoked.

This temporary relief measure will apply to levies incurred in the year 2020, and will benefit some 60,000 firms, according to MOM.

Employers who use the extended payment timeline will only be granted renewal of work passes, and not new passes, to encourage them to retain existing foreign workers.

Meanwhile, in view of the widespread travel restrictions and difficulties that workers may face in returning to Singapore, MOM will be extending the levy waiver for foreign workers who go on overseas home leave for at least seven consecutive days for a period up to 90 days. Previously, the levy waiver was allowed for up to 60 days. This will take effect immediately for foreign workers who are currently on overseas leave. The extended period of levy waiver will also apply to employers who send their foreign workers home from now till the end of the year.

In addition, MOM has worked together with the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) on a temporary scheme to refund unutilised MYEs due to work disruptions caused by the virus outbreak.

Firms have the flexibility to use the refunded 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 and affected firms can apply to BCA for the refund.

This measure was prompted by feedback from SCAL that construction firms are facing work disruptions due to delays in overseas supplies and entry of foreign construction workers as a result of border control measures. Contractors are hence incurring a higher cost given that they are unable to fully utilise the MYEs allocated to their projects.

In response to the increasing risk of imported cases of the virus, MOM is limiting the number of entry approvals for work pass holders to enter Singapore to a very small number, with priority given to essential services. This is in line with the Ministry of Health's advisory on March 18 to defer all travel. Employers are also advised to put plans to bring in new foreign workers on hold.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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