The Coronavirus And Global Mobility Considerations

Author:Ms Katie Davies

The coronavirus originating in Wuhan China is affecting the global economy in many ways, and the situation is constantly changing. The outbreak is disrupting supply chains, interrupting cross-border travel, and even causing a popular international rugby tournament to be "plunged into chaos."

Employers and their expat workers in particular must be mindful of the coronavirus — known as COVID-19 — and the ways in which state and local governments are responding. Rules related to immigration, sheltering in place and more are changing rapidly in the face of the outbreak. The situation is another reminder that while we may live in a global economy, each country has its own laws and regulations that must be followed.

Singapore's response: A case study in the importance of expat compliance with local rules

Singapore is one of the world's most globally connected countries, with a high percentage of foreign workers, significant inward and outward foreign direct investment, and a dependence on exports. One recent BBC article observes that the island nation is "dependent on the rest of the world for its economy, for its food, for its lifeline." As a result, it "has no choice but to be extra vigilant and transparent in its fight against" COVID-19.

Singapore's fight against the coronavirus has had significant consequences for the country's foreign workers and employers. For example, Singapore recently implemented rules related to what it calls Leave of Absence (LOA), Stay-Home Notice (SHN) and Quarantine Orders (QOs).

Singapore-based expat workers and their employers should pay attention to LOA restrictions in particular. Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) website cautions that "employees on LOA may leave their residences for daily necessities or to attend important matters, but they must minimise time spent in public spaces and contact with others." It adds that those employees "with recent travel history to mainland China (outside Hubei) ... will be placed on LOA."

Significantly for expat workers, the MOM emphasizes its power to revoke work privileges if LOA rules are flouted. Workers and businesses both bear a compliance burden in this area. The website explains: "Employers and employees have a joint duty to ensure that employees behave responsibly during the LOA period. MOM will not hesitate to revoke the work passes and withdraw work pass privileges against errant employers or employees."

The MOM is carrying out its threats to punish...

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