Singapore banks to fire unvaccinated staff only as ‘a last resort’

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Singapore banks to fire unvaccinated staff only as ‘a last resort’

Banks in Singapore will not fire unvaccinated staff, as far as they possibly can, even as Citigroup earlier this month declared that US staff who have not been jabbed will lose their jobs by end-January unless granted an exemption.

A spokesman for Citi says that the decision is only applicable to the bank’s US operations, and will not be implemented in Singapore. “We continue to strongly encourage all medically eligible staff to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Citi staff are given paid time off to receive their COVID-19 vaccination,” he adds.

Standard Chartered, meanwhile, does not plan to have a vaccination mandate for employees, and says managers will “work through possible options” with unvaccinated staff “as far as their roles can support”.

“A vast majority of our employees have adopted permanent hybrid working arrangements since last year, based on their preferences and job nature,” says Charlotte Thng, Standard Chartered head of HR for Singapore, Australia and ASEAN markets.

OCBC and UOB say about 99% of staff in Singapore have been vaccinated, and the employment contracts of unvaccinated staff would be terminated only after exhausting other options.

UOB is allowing its “small number” of unvaccinated employees who can work from home to do so, provided these arrangements meet business needs. Unvaccinated staff who cannot work from home may be redeployed to jobs that can be done from home, if such jobs are available and remuneration is commensurate with responsibilities. Unvaccinated staff may also be placed on no-pay leave. “As a last resort, if colleagues are not able to be at the workplace to perform their contracted work, their employment will be terminated with notice, and in accordance with their employment contract,” says UOB’s head of group human resources, Dean Tong.

Similarly, OCBC’s head of group corporate security, Francisco John Celio, says the bank will follow a Ministry of Manpower advisory listing options to handle cases of unvaccinated staff, starting with redeployment to a suitable work-from-home job, followed by no-pay leave based on mutually agreeable terms, and finally, terminating their employment with notice.

The banks’ decisions come on the heels of new government rules that vaccinations will be compulsory to obtaining approvals for work passes and long-term passes from February 1.

Two vaccinated expats we spoke to say they agree with these new rules.  An expat in data analytics for a global bank says he understands the government is “trying to minimise the strain on the health system”. A tech executive at a global bank notes that “most governments are requiring vaccinations, so this shouldn’t bother expats”. “Differentiated treatment also means it is beneficial to get vaccinated,” he adds. “The government is trying to help protect you and the workforce.”

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

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