Lack of clarity on work-from-home SOPs creates confusion

Cost of swab test should be borne by employers or govt, and not to be taken from Socso, says NUBE sec-gen


EMPLOYERS and workers alike lament the lack of clarity over the implementation of the work-from-home (WFH) order, supposed to start today, due to the government’s short notice and lack of standard operating procedures (SOPs) over the matter.

National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) secretary general J Solomon said there are no clear guidelines, for example, on the swab test requirement for workers.

“Does it apply to workplaces in red zones or just to employees in red zones, or both?”

“Also, as workers are directly affected, a red zone must be clearly defined as it will require a great deal of mobilisation and enforcement to ensure that the workers undergo swab tests.

“Questions will arise on whether these areas have enough clinics and labs to run the tests and also if an initial negative result is enough for them to get through the roadblocks. All this must be answered by the authorised person from the National Security Council (NSC) and not ministers,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in a phone interview yesterday.

He stressed that the cost for the swab test should borne by employers or the government, and not to be taken from Social Security Organisation (Socso).

“We can understand the complexity for a layman, but we are of the opinion that the NSC and the ministers need to get their act together.

“If the NSC and ministers are also confused, then they should just direct a lockdown for one week since the sudden spike in the reported cases is due to political charade,” he added.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Tuesday that up to a million workers from both public and private sectors in the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) areas will be subjected to a WFH order as the government found nine new Covid-19 clusters had originated from workplaces.

“Further SOPs will be issued by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) soon,” said Ismail Sabri.

Subsequently, MITI announced that it has agreed to allow a maximum of 10% of employees involved in accounting, finance, administration, law, planning and ICT to be in office for four hours only, from 10am to 2pm, for three days a week.

MITI Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said the move takes into account the needs of the industries, which require the presence of a small number of management and supervisory level employees.

He said companies do not need to submit applications for this purpose, but that employers only need to issue a travel release letter for each employee who is allowed to work during the CMCO period.

“MITI will immediately implement the NSC’s decision for the industry to introduce a WFH policy for management and supervisory staff as a measure to reduce the risk of transmission of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in areas undergoing CMCO,” he said in a statement yesterday.

However, Malaysian Trade Union Congress president Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor questioned whether the limited hours is the best solution.

“With a limited hour and days of working, who will bear the productivity loss?” he said when contacted.

Abdul Halim expressed concerns that a company may resort to salary reduction for employees that are paid on an hourly basis.

On the required swab test, Abdul Halim said the government and Socso had already announced the Covid-19 screening programme for workers since March, but he noted that there is no monitoring over the matter.

TMR’s observation yesterday found that some companies, especially those in essential sectors, had conducted swab tests at the work premises in adherence to the government’s directive.

MITI’s social media platform was also flooded with questions and comments from Internet users, seeking clearer pictures on the SOPs.

In response to a question by Twitter user known as Azam Johari, who queried over the need to WFH when he is required to supervise a construction site, MITI said: “If you need to monitor the site, it means that you are in the supervision stage, which means you can go to the site — but subject to a 10% capacity at a time.”

For sales staff, the ministry said they can still work as usual involving 10% of employees and subject to the stipulated working hours.