Thanks to the current COVID-19 pandemic, business owners worldwide are struggling to make tough choices to avoid going under. In this article, we’ll talk about the different changes employers and organisations can make in order to keep afloat. In short, here are some resources that both employers and employees can take advantage of during Singapore’s current circuit breaker breakout period.
1. Keep up to Date with the News for Emergency Resources
Thankfully in Singapore, there are a number of resources available to help organisations through these tough times. Most recently, the Singapore government is delivering economic relief packages during this circuit breaker period. According to Gov.sg, businesses will be able to receive additional help with costs such as labour and rental costs. A quick glimpse of the website revealed that:
Help for sectors hit hardest by COVID-19. Businesses in industries such as Aviation, Tourism, and the Food Service will receive support in the form of support packages.
Help with rental costs. The Ministry of Law is planning on introducing a bill to allow businesses to defer contractual obligations (i.e. paying rent, repaying loans, etc).
Financial support made available to struggling businesses. Struggling SMEs in Singapore will be able to defer loan payments, lower interest on SME loans, as well as assistance for insurance repayments. Learn more about financial support for SMEs during this COVID-19 season here.
Examples of other financial resources provided by the Singapore government include property tax rebates of up to 30%. Read more about Singapore’s COVID-19 property tax rebate here.
2. Make the Switch Organization Wide
Lookout for free resources to switch over to. During this work-for-home season, organisations have started to use Skype, Google Hangout Chats, and Zoom to replicate an office environment. Now is also the time to make tougher financial decisions.
For instance, organisations should put upskilling courses on hold, unless imperative. There are a number of free resources available on the internet that might be useful. These resources include:
LinkedIn Learning: Free short videos (for LinkedIn Premium users) available for those looking to learn courses in industries such as business, technology, and even some creative skills. Course examples here range from “C++ Game Programming” to Microsoft Excel Foundation.
Coursera: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Coursera wants to provide school and university students with free courses. These courses are also available (for free) to employees looking to upskill themselves.
Consider scouring the internet for free tools to help keep your business running. Some great examples can be found in our recent article, 5 Major Work From Home Tips All HR Executives in Singapore Fail to Utilize.
Pro-Tip: Should your employee require training during Singapore’s circuit breaker period. Look into the Absentee Payroll Funding, a form of funding that helps organisations cover the manpower costs incurred when employees are sent away for training. Keep in mind that not all courses are covered under this scheme. Additionally, the Absentee Payroll Funding will not apply to on-the-job training.
Learn more about the Absentee Payroll Funding here.
3. Hire and Keep Contract Employees for a Longer Term
Employers will be able to receive some form of funding for Singaporean/Singapore PR contract staff as part of the JSS (Job Support Scheme). Employers can expect to be able to receive three separate payouts in the month of April, July, and October 2020. In short, this means that the Singapore government will support employers in retaining their workforce and continue paying their employees, even during lull business periods due to the Singapore circuit breaker.
Of course, monetary support varies according to the industry. But to put it simply, the JSS scheme will provide wage support of 25% to 75%. The table below from IRAS clearly provides a simple breakdown of support payouts for employers, depending on their different industries.
Going on a circuit breaker should not slow down your existing hiring plans for the year. Should your organisation require additional manpower in this circuit breaker period or beyond, but still require manpower flexibility, employing longer-term contract workers from the months of April until October is a good option.
Now is a good time to consider outsourcing your hiring needs to a manpower outsourcing agency such as BGC Group for contract and temporary staff in Singapore. As your contract employee's co-employer, a trustworthy HR outsourcing agency will not capitalise on this but pass cost savings along to employers.
Pro-Tip: The JSS scheme is applicable for employees who are Singaporean or hold a Singaporean PR.
Update: There will be an additional JSS payout in May 2020 to accommodate the Circuit Breaker's Extension up until 1 June 2020. The May 2020 and subsequent JSS payout will also be extended to cover the wages of both directors and shareholders (shareholder-directors) of the company. Additionally, the May 2020 payout will also include the back payment of shareholder-directors, excluded from the previous April 2020 payout.
4. Revise Your Work Policies to Help Affected Employees
Whilst moonlighting might be seen as unacceptable to some, but when there is a drop in income, employers should consider bending the rules a little due to the current economic uncertainty. One way employers have been introducing flexibility in their workforce and yet retain manpower is to convert full-time employees into long term contract staff.
Of course, this is an extreme measure that can only be considered when:
There are no restrictions on the full-time employee’s current employment contract.
There is no conflict of interest between the first employer and the second employer.
Neither the organisation nor the employee is supported by the JSS funding scheme (see above).
By allowing your employees to work with two employers at once, your organisation will only be responsible for paying CPF contributions as well as other contractual benefits only during the hours they’re contracted to you. In other words, CPF contributions and other contractual benefits (i.e. leave) are split between two employers.
Employers can help find alternative positions for their employees through the newly launched SGUnited Jobs Virtual Career Fair. Alternatively, check out BGC Group’s article, 10 Websites Singaporeans Should Use to Search for Jobs in Singapore.
Pro-Tip: Excess foreign employee manpower can be transferred to another company for the time being. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has introduced a temporary scheme to allow organisations in Singapore to:
Transfer foreign workers from one sector to another. Prior to this, the current rule was that foreign employees are only allowed to be transferred to organisations within their respective sectors. Learn more about it on MOMs website here.
Due to the circuit breaker extension, companies hiring foreign workers will be provided a $750 rebate for every foreign employee hired. Additionally, foreign worker levies for May 2020 would be waived. Learn more about the updated support scheme here.
5. Live Below the (Budgeting) Line
Cut costs when needed and live below your means. For instance, turn off all the unused lights, and power switches in the office. Try to move unnecessary corporate expenditure (e.g. advertising, corporate celebrations, etc) back. Freeing up all this unnecessary expenditure allows corporations to focus on providing just the essentials for the time being.
Despite the current COVID-19 situation, most organisations in Singapore are blessed with surprising ways to stay afloat. Right now, employers should focus on supporting their employees, rather than add to their list of problems.
As a manpower outsourcing agency that supports collaboration, what are some budgeting tips that you believe will be useful to other organisations in Singapore? Share them with us in the comments section below!