Coronavirus/COVID-19 Entry Restrictions Update Asia August 2020

Due to the outbreak and ongoing effects of COVID-19 many countries and territories had imposed travel bans, restricting people from entering. These bans were imposed in an effort to slow down the spread of the virus and protect large groups of the relevant populations from infection. However, even though the virus has not slowed down in parts of the world, it is becoming increasingly important to permit travel once again. The following is an update on the ease of travel restrictions in certain parts of the Asia Pacific region.

Many people both nationals and foreign nationals have been unable to travel since the travel restrictions have been imposed. Wanting to return to family, work or for business purposes, many have been waiting for updates on the ease of travel restrictions. Although these are the latest updates on the ease of the restrictions, for those wanting to return to China or any of the neighboring countries, it is important to stay updated with new information, as it is subject to change.

This update includes information from the following countries: Mainland China, Taiwan (China), Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

China tax relief policy due to coronavirus

With the lockdowns being lifted and businesses getting back to work, China is on the path of gradual recovery, after the coronavirus outbreak. As a great deal of businesses and individuals were not able to generate income for more than 2 months, government intervention is crucial in order to allow businesses to recover and restore stability. The government in China has implemented the following tax breaks, in an effort to aid enterprises and individuals.

The implementation of the following regulations is in accordance with: The Notice of the Tax Policy on Supporting the Prevention and Control of Coronavirus Determined by the Ministry of Finance, General Administration of Taxation (No. 8 document published in 2020).

Individuals directly involved in the protection and treatment of COVID-19

Time period: from January 1st, 2020, the deadline will be announced in accordance with the developments of the epidemic situation.

This applies to medical staff and those workers who participated in the epidemic prevention and control. This includes workers such as doctors, nurses and those who take care of medical waste, as well as auxiliary workers such as ambulance drivers, hospital administrators, cleaning staff etc. Any income or bonus received by these workers from the 1st of January will be exempt from personal tax. In addition, anyone who had imported and donated supplies, that contributed towards the prevention and control of the epidemic will be exempt from paying personal tax.

The material supply of goods and services

Implementation time: from January 1st, 2020, the deadline will be provided at a later date determined by the authorities.

A number of enterprises had produced key materials for the control and prevention of the epidemic. These enterprises enjoy the benefit of a once-off tax deduction on any new equipment purchased in order to expand production capacity.

Furthermore, the following groups of taxpayers are entitled to have parts of their income VAT free:

  • Enterprises who transport key materials – any income received for providing transportation services of key materials.
  • Public transportation providers – any public transportation service providers who provided their service during the epidemic.
  • Essential workers – this includes any providers of goods and services necessary for people’s daily lives, such as grocery stores, supermarkets and delivery drivers.
  • Public health administrative departments – for the organization of imported materials used in the prevention and control of the epidemic. These departments will have a tariff exemption on the goods procured.

The encouragement of public donation

Time period: starting from January 1st, 2020. The deadline will be determined at a later point in time, in accordance with any changes that may occur.

Enterprises and individuals who made a contribution through public welfare social organizations or state organs such at a provincial or county level, as well as those who contributed directly to hospitals, will enjoy a full pre-tax deduction. These contributions can either consist of cash donations or the donation of items.

Businesses and individuals who donated any imported materials towards the prevention and control of the epidemic, will be exempt from any import tariff fees, import VAT and import consumption tax.

Support offered for the resumption of work and production

Time period: starting from January 1st, 2020, the deadline will be set at a later date in accordance with the developments of the situation.

For industries and enterprises that have experienced operating difficulties and that have incurred loses, the carry over period of the useful life or economic lifespan of an asset is extended from 5 years to 8 years. This applies to enterprises in the transportation, tourism, catering and accommodation industries.

Reduction and exemption of social security and medical insurance

Time period: phased policy of reducing social insurance premiums and medical insurance premiums from February 2020 (reduction differs in each jurisdiction).

Across China, all enterprises are required to contribute to social insurance and medical insurance for their employees. In an effort to alleviate the financial burden on enterprises, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, the local governments across China were encouraged to determine appropriate reductions and exemptions regarding these payments.

Small and medium sized enterprises: payment of the 3 social insurances (basic pension, unemployment insurance and work-related injury) will be reduced or exempt for a period not exceeding 5 months. For large scale enterprises (excluding government institutions): the payment of the 3 social insurances will be reduced for a period not exceeding 3 months. For enterprises in Hubei (excluding government agencies and institutions) the payment of 3 social insurances will be exempt for a period not exceeding 5 months.

Enterprises facing serious difficulty in production and operation, as a result of the epidemic can apply for a postponement in payment of the social security fees. The period of postponement should not exceed 6 months. The contribution made by enterprises towards the medical insurance of their employees will be reduced for a period not exceeding 5 months.

Due to the nature of these unprecedented times, the government of China has seen the importance of outlining measures to assist businesses and individuals. These reductions and exemptions have been made in order to encourage economic stability and restore continued growth.

Coronavirus: Government Updates Asia-Pacific, April 24, 2020

In this note we offer some updates from governments in the Asia-Pacific region, regarding the Coronavirus pandemic. This note includes updates on tax breaks or relief offered by the governments of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore. As the spread of the virus continues and the situation is constantly developing, this update reflects the position as of 24 April 2020 and it may be subject to change as circumstances evolve.

Access the most recent update below:

COVID-19 China Business Tax Exemptions: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangdong

The COVID-19 outbreak has effected many individuals and businesses across the world. China, the epicenter of the outbreak, is leading the way regarding recovery, after the virus. After nearly 2 months of lockdown, China is returning to normal. The government of the PRC has implemented the following measures to assist businesses and individuals, to recover from any losses and setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The regulations and measures differ in each jurisdiction.

Beijing coronavirus relief measures

Social Insurance

Large businesses:
From February 2020 to April 2020
Payments to the 3 social insurances (basic pension, unemployment insurance and work-related injury) will be reduced by 50% for large enterprises, private non-enterprise units and social organizations.
 
Small and medium sized businesses
From February 2020 to June 2020
All payments from micro (individual, industrial or commercial households) and medium sized enterprises, to the 3 social insurances (basic pension, unemployment insurance and work-related injury) will also be reduced by 50%.
 
All enterprises that meet the above stated requirements do not need to submit an application.
 

Medical Insurance

For all size businesses and units
From February 2020 to June 2020
The payment of basic medical insurance will be reduced from 10% to 5.4%.
Childbirth insurance will now also form part of medical insurance which will be reduced from 0.8% to 0%.
During the period of reduction, the insured person’s benefits will not be affected.

Contribution

Pension:
8%
Unemployment insurance:
0.40%
Work-related injury:
0.20%
Medical insurance (incl. birth and basic medical):
5.40%
Total contribution from the enterprise:
14%

Shanghai coronavirus relief measures

Social Insurance

Large businesses:
From February 2020 to June 2020
Payments from the 3 social insurances (basic pension, unemployment insurance and work-related injury) will be exempted for large enterprises (incl. private non-enterprise units and social organizations) as well as small (individual, industrial or commercial households) and medium sized businesses.  
 
Small and medium sized businesses
From February 2020 to June 2020
All payments from micro (individual, industrial or commercial households) and medium sized enterprises to the 3 social insurances (basic pension, unemployment insurance and work-related injury) will be exempted.

Medical Insurance

For all size businesses and units
From February 2020 to June 2020
The payment of basic medical insurance by an enterprise, will be adjusted to 5.25%. During the period of reduction, the insured person’s benefits will not be affected. Childbirth insurance will no longer form part of social insurance, it will instead fall under medical insurance.

Contribution

Pension:                                                            
0%
Unemployment insurance:
0%
Work-injury:                                                      
0%
Medical (incl. birth and basic medical):  
5.25%
Total contribution from the enterprise:  
5.25%

Shenzhen coronavirus relief measures

Social Insurance

Large businesses:
From February 2020 to April 2020
Payments made by enterprises to the 3 social insurances (basic pension, work-related injury and unemployment insurance) will be reduced by half for large enterprises, private non-enterprise units and social organizations (excluding government institutions).
 
Small and medium sized businesses
From February 2020 to June 2020
Payments made from micro and medium sized enterprises to the 3 social insurances will be exempt for this period.

Medical Insurance

For all size businesses and units
From February 2020 to June 2020
The payments of basic medical insurance which is to be paid by an enterprise shall be reduced from 5.2% to 3%.
 
The contribution for childbirth insurance will now be a part of medical insurance and it remains the same at 0.45%.

Contribution

Pension:                                                            
0%
Unemployment insurance:                             
0%
Work-injury:                                                     
0%
Medical:
Basic medical                                            
3%
Birth                                                      
0.45%
Total contribution from the enterprise: 
3.45%

Guangdong (excl. Shenzhen) relief measures

Social security
Large businesses:
From February 2020 to April 2020
Payments to the 3 social insurances, namely unemployment insurance work-related injury and basic pension, will be reduced by half for large enterprises, private non-enterprise units and social organizations.  
 
Small and medium sized businesses
From February 2020 to June 2020
All payments from micro (individual, industrial or commercial households) and medium sized enterprises to the 3 social insurances (basic pension, unemployment insurance and work-related injury) will be exempted.

Medical Insurance

For all size businesses and units
From February 2020 to June 2020
The basic medical insurance payment by enterprises will be reduced, for this period, from 5.5% to 3.5%.
The contribution for childbirth insurance remains the same at 0.85%, however it will now fall under medical insurance.
The supplementary medical insurance payment will remain the same, which is currently set at 24.23 RMB per month.

Contribution

Pension:                                                              
0%
Unemployment insurance:                              
0%
Work-injury:                                                     
0%
Medical:
Basic medical                                         
3.5%
Birth                                                      
0.85%
Total contribution from the enterprise:  4.35%

Business plan for COVID-19

A plan of action for businesses to consider during the lockdown

The new Coronavirus, COVID-19, is like nothing we have ever experienced in our lifetime. Countries around the world have gone into lockdown, with governments directing their citizens to stay home. Like a natural disaster, the effects of the outbreak are far-reaching and will be deeply felt. Businesses in particular are reeling from the effects, with a high level of uncertainty surrounding when things will return to ‘normal’. Although business owners and leaders may feel overwhelmed, there are lessons that can be learned from how businesses in China responded to the initial outbreak of the virus. This article will examine some of the steps businesses can take in order to mitigate the effects caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The effect of the Coronavirus on business

The expected impact of the COVID-19 on businesses and the economy is continually evolving. Due to the pace at which the virus continues to spread, there is no certainty when the pandemic will come to an end. COVID-19 will undoubtedly have a commercial impact on all industries, especially those in manufacturing, events, F&B, retail and entertainment.

There are a multitude of problems that arise, from cash management, to performance of contractual obligations, and the suspension or termination of contracts, among other things. Businesses should carefully analyze and assess the potential impact the virus will have in the short, medium and long term.

Short term

Business owners and managers should address the cash management situation and outline a course of action in the event the lockdown is prolonged. It may be necessary for managers to rework operations and establish various ways through which business can be conducted, considering the current circumstances. A plan of action is also necessary in case the lockdown period remains ongoing for an extended period.

If an end to the lockdown is in sight, it is imperative for managers to lay out a blueprint in order to cope with any knock-on effects, such as reduced demand, problems with supply chain, new regulations, etc.

How can businesses reduce costs?

It is important that businesses try and survive their respective lockdown periods. Even though there is uncertainty regarding the duration of the lockdowns, there is hope that once the spread of the virus stops, everything will return to normal. There are various ways in which businesses can reduce costs in order to ensure they are able to withstand the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reduction in working hours/flexible schedules

Laying off employees should be considered a last resort during this crisis. As an alternative, you can negotiate with staff and ask them to accept reduced salaries or take unpaid leave for the duration of the lockdown. Be sure to familiarize yourself with local employment laws, as in some jurisdictions you may not be able to direct employees to work adjusted working hours or flexible schedules (e.g. take unpaid leave).

Seek financial aid

In response to the heavy economic implications for individuals as well as SME’s, and to prevent their respective financial systems from seizing, many governments are rolling out stimulus packages. Governments such as the USA, Japan and Malaysia, among others, are attempting to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their economies through large stimulus packages that are provided to their citizens through cash handouts, subsidies, loan relief and coupons.

The US government has signed into law a $2 trillion stimulus, of which $500 billion dollars will be provided to businesses in the form of loans, loan guarantees and investments. Contract workers and part time workers will also be eligible to receive aid.  While Japan is planning to inject a $1 trillion stimulus, of which a significant percentage will be handed out to the public in cash and subsidies. Although the exact details have not yet been provided, the Japanese government had already introduced a $239 billion stimulus in December of 2019 to assist businesses and workers that have been affected by the virus. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, stated that a large portion of the package would be offered to small firms hit by a slump in sales.

Businesses leaders and managers should stay up to date with any information regarding a possible stimulus package and whether they qualify for relief.

Stay up to date with regulation

It is important to stay up to date with any guidelines or regulations provided by the government. Many governments have been recently forced into changing regulation. In the UK, for example, lawmakers have announced new insolvency measures in order to prevent business from filing for bankruptcy. The purpose of the change is to assist UK companies which need to undergo a restructuring process or financial rescue, in order to keep trading.

Rethink processes

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has, for many business leaders, brought forward the notion of structural change and innovation. Many leaders and managers are now forced to find alternate means to facilitate operations, reduce costs and optimize their supply chains. Many are looking at digital tools to assist them to reconfigure and adjust their supply chain, marketing approaches and overall strategies.

Communication with your local authorities

It is important to stay in communication with your landlord and local municipality. You may receive reductions in rent or subsidies from the municipality during this time. Depending on how the system is designed, your landlord may receive relief from the banks or government.

What comes next?

China is slowly recovering from nearly two months of lockdowns and business closures caused by COVID-19. Although some businesses were unable to survive this unprecedented period of disruption, more than 70% were able to resume operations by the first week in March. Operations in China are returning to normal, however the global spread of the virus is causing problems for those outside of the PRC. Although the current outlook may be grim for many business leaders and managers, with China in mind, there is a glimmer of hope for those that are able to withstand the duration of the lockdown. Therefore, the most important thing to do right now is to plan, prepare and ensure you, your staff and family are safe and healthy.  


Coronavirus: The World’s Largest Work From Home Initiative

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reaching its peak in mid-February, the hopes of many employers in China for work to return to normal after the Chinese New Year period, were dashed. The vast spread of the highly contagious Coronavirus had forced many local governments within China to direct businesses to remain closed, in order to control the epidemic and prevent any further spread. However, even amidst the outbreak, it is unfeasible for many businesses to cease operations, leading to one of the largest “work from home” (WFH) initiatives the world has ever seen.

Working from home: a first in China

A large part of controlling the Coronavirus outbreak relied on the containment measures China would put in place. The government in Wuhan, where the outbreak first occurred, ordered a complete lockdown of the city, with no one being able to enter or leave freely. Other major cities imposed less severe measures and urged citizens to isolate themselves at home and only leave the house when absolutely necessary. Businesses in certain industries, however, received strong direction to avoid letting employees congregate, resulting in certain businesses closing until further notice. With such restrictive measures in place, employers across the country directed their employees to WFH.

For many, the nature of their work demands them to be present in their workplace to carry out their duties. For others, the lack of access to the workplace is no longer a problem. With the arrival of the information age, people are more connected in every aspect of their lives and work is no exception. With access to computers, phones, the internet, shared drives and specific databases, an employee is able to set up shop wherever he or she sees fit.

China is no stranger to the information age, with tech giants like Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu ensuring Chinese citizens remain connected around the clock. With the arrival of the Coronavirus, tech companies came to the forefront and had to prepare for one of the world’s largest workforces to carry their work out remotely. Immediately after the extended Chinese New Year period, more than 200 million workers were directed to set up office at home; an unprecedented event both in China and the world.

The order to work from home immediately resulted in a surge in the use of business connectivity apps such as DingTalk, Zoom and WeChat Work. Zoom has added 2.22 million users so far in 2020, eclipsing the 1.99 million it added over the course of the whole of 2019. While Alibaba Group’s DingTalk had over 50 million students utilize its online classroom feature. 

With the immediate and unforeseen increase in number of users, these tech companies were put under pressure to ensure their servers were able to maintain the load, with inevitable crashes and glitches occurring along the way. While many industries in China suffered as a result of the Coronavirus, these tech companies experienced a boom, all in the wake of the world’s largest workforce going online.

Working from home: an increase in performance?

Although this is the first time employees across China were directed to work from home, there has previously been a spell where specific employees in China were requested to WFH. In Shanghai during 2010-11, 996 employees from the travel company Ctrip volunteered to work at home for 9 months as part of an empirical study.

The results of the study showed a 13% increase in performance among employees working from home in comparison to working in their typical call center environment. The findings of the study further revealed that those who worked from home, worked more minutes per shift and had an increase in the amount of work completed. Notably, there was an increase in employee satisfaction. The only downside seen within the 9-month period, was that the ‘promotional rate contingent on performance’ decreased. This meant that fewer employees got promoted based on their performance; perhaps due to their employers not being able to physically see them work. Nevertheless, due to the success of the trial, Working from home became a company-wide option for employees of Ctrip and the overall performance gains then increased to around 22%.

Chinese law on working from home

According to Chinese law, an employer is able to request an employee to work from home if there is a significant health and safety risk to other employees. If an employee is requested to work from home, he/she is entitled to receive his/her full compensation.

Benefits of working from home

While Ctrip saw an increase in productivity among its employees, that’s not to say working from home will be viable across all industries. Each industry differs in characteristics and as such the external factors which determine the success or failure of WFH, may vary. Also, in certain industries working from home may be impractical due to the nature of the work.

Nevertheless, over the past few decades there have been various studies on the benefits of working from home, for both employers and employees. For the employee, working from home offers a more flexible work schedule, less time spent travelling, a less stressful environment with fewer distractions and surprisingly an increase in productivity. Studies reflect that the overall happiness of an employee improves, if he or she is permitted to work from home.

Although a high level of trust is required for employers to allow their employees to work remotely, there are various benefits that may accrue to the employer. The employer may have reduced overheads, lower turnover in staff, employees may produce more work on a daily basis and they are likely to see an increase in productivity. The Ctrip study revealed that improved performance was valued at about $230 per employee per year. Moreover, the estimated savings on the cost of capital per year was valued at $1,400 per employee, due to reduced office use and IT costs; while there was a reduced turnover savings of around $260 per employee annually. This resulted in a grand total of $1,900 saved per employee per year.  

Drawbacks of working from home

Of course, working from home is not purely advantageous, otherwise there would be hordes of vacant office spaces around the world; there are various disadvantages that come along with implementing it.

Firstly, implementation may be difficult, as managers may be apprehensive to the idea due to concerns over their career (if a scheme like this fails, it could be damaging to their careers). A period of adjustment may also be required to enable employees to get used to the process of WFH. Preference may also play a roll, as some employees may feel they are unable to concentrate or be productive at home, as such they may prefer to work in an office. A director of a Beijing start-up stated that on the first day he did a video conference with employees, some of the employees looked like they just got out of bed; however, on the second day they all looked ready to work. Lastly, there is a possibility some of your employees may have difficulty communicating, however this may be mitigated through use of the right tools and processes.

As it appears with the arrival of the internet age, it may be time to start looking at the way we work from a different perspective. Even though China was forced into adopting the concept due to external factors, the empirical evidence does indicate that the benefits may outweigh the disadvantages and remote work may be beneficial for both employers and employees. Although it can’t be predicted how long companies in China will allow their employees to WFH, more companies around the world are looking at modern approaches to managing teams, such as 4-day work weeks and allowing employees to work remotely. It is often said that remote work is the future of the way we work, perhaps the future is now.


Coronavirus: Notice for Employers in Thailand

With significant risk to both the economy and society, the Novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, necessitates safety measures to be implemented. These safety measures should be implemented across all spheres of society, with the purpose of containing the virus and preventing further spread. It is important for all employers to follow regulations and protect the health and safety of their employees. This notice discusses obligations and current measures being implemented by employers in response to the outbreak of the virus.

Employer Obligations in Thailand

In Thailand, a legal duty is placed on employers to ensure that employees have safe and hygienic working conditions. Employers are to ensure employees are protected from being at risk of harm to their life, body and health. If an employer fails to comply, it may constitute a criminal offence. As such, employers should monitor any notifications or regulations passed by the government in Thailand and ensure full compliance with the regulations.

Important Employment Measures

As a result of the outbreak of the Coronavirus, it is important for certain measures to be taken and implemented. Such measures should be followed to ensure the safety of employees and compliance with government regulation.

Rules regarding working from home

As per Thai regulation an employer can direct an employee to work from home, provided that the employee receives his/her full pay and benefits as per normal. The period that an employee works from should also contribute to their service length.

If an employee is directed or requested to stay at home, however he/she is unable to fulfil his/her obligations, due to the nature of the work, an employer should continue to pay that employee his/her full salary. By doing this, an employer creates a layer of protection against any dismissal or breach of contract claims that may arise.

Requesting an employee to take leave

According to regulation, an employer can direct an employee to take his/her annual leave. However, an employer is unable to unilaterally direct an employee to go on unpaid leave, unless the employee has agreed to this.

Current Restrictions on Travel

In Thailand it is permitted for an employer to impose travel restrictions on employees in order to comply with regulations on employee safety. As a result of the outbreak of the virus, many employers in Thailand have placed travel restrictions to mainland China, and some have placed an outright ban on travel to the Hubei province (where the outbreak started), in China.

Safety Measures Implemented

Many employers across Thailand have implemented various safety measures to ensure their employees have a safe and hygienic working environment such as; gathering recent travel and health information, regular temperature checks, providing masks and regular sanitization of the workplace.

Current Measures Applied

It is advised by the government that, if possible, employers should allow their employees to work from home in order to ensure safety of employees. If an employee is requested to work from home, he/she is still entitled to receive full pay. Employers can also request that employees take statutory leave, however as mentioned before, this may not be well received by an employee. Finally, an employer can request an employee to take unpaid leave, however, an employee’s consent is required to do so.  Some employers have requested that employees work from home in order to ensure employee safety in accordance with regulation.

Coronavirus: Notice for Employers in Vietnam

In Vietnam, various precautionary measures have been taken in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19, more commonly known as the Coronavirus. Although, as of 24 February 2020, the number of confirmed cases has been relatively low, authorities have established procedures to maintain overall health and safety of individuals. Businesses in Vietnam are permitted to continue operations, however there are various duties employers have to fulfil in order to protect the health and safety of employees; and ensure compliance with government policy. This guide serves to notify both employers and employees; of their rights and obligations, in light of the Coronavirus epidemic.

 

Employer obligations

With regards to occupational safety and health of employees, the onus is on employers to ensure all their obligations are met. The law requires employers to ensure that a workplace meets all safety requirements, especially harmful and hazardous factors, of which infectious diseases forms part of.

Employers are obliged to provide employees with information about harmful and hazardous factors; and the relevant measures that should be taken to establish a safe and hygienic environment. In the current state of affairs this would require employers to inform their employees about the Coronavirus and ensure that the necessary safety measures are being implemented.

Employers are further required to assign health officers or set up a health unit (dependent on the size of the organization and the industry). If an employer is unable to assign a person or unit, that employer should contract an external entity which has the relevant capacity to do so. An important function of the health officer/health unit is to implement measures to prevent and control infectious disease in the workplace.

Period of quarantine

The Ministry of Health in Vietnam has issued a notice which provides guidelines on the prevention and control of the Coronavirus. If an employer confirms or suspects that an employee may have contracted the Coronavirus, he/she is obliged to inform a local health agency within 24 hours.

Any persons suspected or confirmed to have the Coronavirus, will be quarantined, subject to the decision of a competent authority. If an employee is suspected to have the Coronavirus and he/she has not yet been quarantined, the employer must should direct the employee to take leave (fully paid), however the employee must provide consent.

Employees who have recently travelled to mainland China as well as those who are suspected of having the Coronavirus are required to be quarantined for a mandatory period of 14-days.

Employment measures

As the outbreak of the virus is quite unique in nature, it is important for various protective measures, to be implemented. Such measures should be implemented to ensure the safety of employees and compliance with government regulation.

Working from home

Currently the law in Vietnam does encourage employers to permit employees to work from home. However, there is no legal basis for an employer to direct an employee to work from. Employers and employees should reach consensus regarding any arrangements to work from home. 

Requesting leave

Theoretically, it is possible for an employer to request an employee to take unpaid leave, however it is unusual for this to occur in an epidemic, such as the Coronavirus. An employer can request an employee to take unpaid leave, however the employee needs to consent to it.

Restrictions placed on travel

As of 1 February 2020, flights between Vietnam and mainland China have been suspended, pending further notice. Vietnamese citizens have been advised against travelling to countries where there have been confirmed cases of the Coronavirus. 

Measures adopted by employers

Many companies and factories in Vietnam are continuing normal operation, however the opening of schools after the Lunar New Year has been delayed until further notice. Due to the closure of schools, many employees have agreed to work from home. Various safety measures are being adopted by employers, such as regular temperature checks, providing masks and providing sanitizers. These safety measures are being implemented as a means to prevent the risk of spread of the Coronavirus.  

Coronavirus: Notice for Employers in Malaysia

The novel Coronavirus has in recent weeks spread vastly. With new cases continuously being found all over the world, it is no wonder that governments are implementing additional measures to protect the health and wellbeing of their residents. In Malaysia, a number of procedures have been implemented to minimise disruption to businesses and continue operations; while attempting to safeguard employees in the workplace. The Coronavirus has presented exceptional circumstances and as such employers must be prudent in their decision making, especially regarding measures in the treatment of employees.  

Employers’ duties in Malaysia

Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”)

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) of Malaysia, employers in prescribed industries are required to maintain workplace health and safety.

Under this Act, employers have a general obligation to ensure that their employees are not exposed to risks to their health and safety in the workplace, taking practicality into account. Employers who fail to comply with the obligation outlined in the OSHA risk being fined an amount not exceeding RM 50,000 and/or imprisonment for at least two years.

The OSHA only applies to certain industries in Malaysia (manufacturing, business services, wholesale and retail trades, construction) and recommends certain requirements in relation to occupational safety and health.

Common law duty of care

Regardless of whether the OSHA applies to an employer, all employers in Malaysia are duty-bound by common law to ensure workplace safety.

The INS Global team recommend that employers in Malaysia continue to monitor announcements and notifications made by the Malaysian government and take appropriate precautionary measures to uphold this duty of care.

Press Release by the Ministry of Human Resources (“MOHR”) – 6 February 2020

In a press release, the MOHR released guidelines for employers on how to handle contagious outbreaks, including COVID-19. The guidelines state that employers are to take the following measures:

(a) Instruct employees to be examined immediately, at the expense of the employer, by a registered medical practitioner or medical officer (“Doctor”) as stipulated by Section 60(f) of the Employment Act 1955 (“EA”);

(b) To provide paid sick leave or hospitalisation entitlement during the quarantine period to employees receiving quarantine orders from doctors, regardless of whether the employee is quarantined at home or at hospital. Employers are encouraged to provide extra compensation to employees under a quarantine order who exceed their sick leave/hospitalisation entitlement;

(c) To provide full pay to employees who have received a quarantine order from a doctor as a result of the employee travelling on the instructions of the employer to a destination where there are Coronavirus cases;

(d) Not to prevent employees from attending work in the absence of a quarantine order issued by a doctor. However, employers are permitted to instruct any unwell employee not to come to work by providing paid sick leave to the employee; and

(e) Not to instruct employees to utilise their annual leave or take unpaid leave during any quarantine period.

Please note that the Employment Act (EA) only applies to EA employees (whose wages are RM 2,000 and below or those engaged in stated work such as drivers, manual labourers, despatch, etc. regardless of salary). It is unclear whether (a) applies solely to EA employees or all employees regardless of whether they fall into the category of EA.

Period of Quarantine

For example, the Malaysian government requires Malaysians who have returned from Hubei province in the last 14 days to self-isolate at home.

Employment measures

Policy on working from home

In light of the coronavirus outbreak, employers are at liberty to require employees who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus (e.g. because they have returned from an unsafe destination) to work from home or remotely as a precautionary measure. Some employees have already implemented this measure in relation to those who are unwell. The Malaysian Trade Union Congress has also supported this recommendation and has called for employers to be flexible in making alternative arrangements including working from home. 

If an employer requests that an employee works from home, he/she should continue to receive his/her full salary and benefits.

If an employee is required to remain at home as a precautionary measure but is unable to carry out operational duties due to the nature of their work, the employee should still continue to receive his/her full salary and benefits during the temporary suspension period. This is in the interest of both parties, avoiding potential constructive dismissal liability.

Annual leave

Employers should not require employees to take annual leave or unpaid leave, as this could lead to a constructive dismissal liability risk. Such leave may be taken upon mutual agreement between both parties but cannot be forcibly implemented.

Travel regulations

It would be a legitimate action for employers in Malaysia to restrict business travel for their employees, for the purposes of complying with their employee health and safety obligations. Employers cannot restrict the personal travel of their employees as this would constitute an invasion of their private life. Employers may, however, require employees who are travelling to mainland China or other countries with confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus, for private purposes, to declare this information so that safety measures can be implemented. This would mitigate any associated risks and would ensure compliance with the employer’s duty of care for their workforce.

Systems being adopted in Malaysia

Many employers in Malaysia have restricted travel for the purpose of business to mainland China, with some banning it outright to Wuhan and Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.

In addition to requiring employees to work from home, many employers are limiting non-essential face-to-face meetings and are providing masks and sanitizers in the workplace in order to maintain good hygiene.

Coronavirus: Notice for Employers in Indonesia

The recent outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in many companies in the Asia-Pacific region having to implement alternative measures to ensure the continuation of business, and most importantly, to safeguard against the spread of the virus. Although Indonesia has had no reported cases of the Coronavirus, safety precautions still have to observed. The following guide explores employer obligations and workplace health and safety management in Indonesia, during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Employer Obligations in Indonesia

Employers in Indonesia must enforce a work ‘safety and health management’ system in order to create and sustain a safe, efficient and productive work place for its employees. This includes measures to deal with scenarios such as disease prevention, hazard control, promotion of health, medication and rehabilitation.

In relation to the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak, employers should follow the guidelines issued by Indonesia’s Ministry of Health (“MOH”) and pay close attention to further announcements and advisories made by the public body.

In addition to the general guidelines issued by the MOH, the local office of the MOH in Jakarta has also recently issued an announcement on vigilance against the Coronavirus (for the attention of company directors, building management and entertainment venues in the city). This letter details how employers can detect, prevent and respond to the situation. This includes:

  • Reporting individuals who show symptoms of the COVID-19 to the local MOH office; and
  • Providing employees with information on how to prevent the spread of the virus (e.g., regular hand washing).

Employment measures in Indonesia

Working remotely

Working remotely is not specifically regulated in Indonesia. Given the circumstances of the current Coronavirus outbreak, some employers may consider requesting employees to work from home. However, INS Global is not aware of employers implementing this measure yet. As of the publication date of this notification, there has been no announcement or guideline issued by the Indonesian Ministry of Employment and the MOH requiring employers to impose alternative arrangements for their employees.

Where working remotely is not possible (e.g., due to the nature of the work), employers are still at liberty to request their employees to remain at home and not come to work out of health and safety concerns. However, the employee must continue to receive his/her full salary and benefits during the temporary suspension period.

Taking leave

Employers cannot force their employees to take annual leave or unpaid leave. Such leave requires consent from the employee.

Travel restrictions

The Indonesian government has imposed a number of travel restrictions to protect the health and safety of all people. The following measures have been imposed:

  • Foreigners who have travelled to mainland China in the last 14 days are not permitted to enter Indonesia. This includes transiting;
  • Indonesian nationals are not permitted to travel to mainland China; and
  • Flights both to and from mainland China, have been suspended until further notice.

Current measures in Indonesia

Although Indonesia has reported no confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus, a number of measures are being implemented by employers in Indonesia to minimise the risk of infection and to uphold a duty of care towards their employees.

Employees are limiting non-essential business travel to mainland China (given that the government has imposed a temporary travel ban, thus leading to no flights available). Some employers are advising employees to limit non-urgent overseas travel even to destinations outside mainland China.

Employers are also providing offices with sanitizing products to encourage good hygiene in the workplace, including hand sanitizers and masks.

Some employers are organizing “health talks”, inviting medical professionals to speak to employees about the Coronavirus, the risks it poses and how to prevent the risk of infection at home and in the workplace.

Current regulations permit an employer to request an employee to undergo a medical examination if there are any concerns about an employee’s state of health. In light of the current situation, some employers are encouraging employees to visit a doctor if they are feeling unwell, especially if they have recently returned from an overseas trip.