Southeast Asian countries are not as much in the spotlight for COVID-19 media coverage, but the virus did not stop at them either. Malaysia and Singapore each issued their own orders, the Movement Control Order (MCO) and Circuit Breaker (CB), which both countries used to manage the pandemic situation in 2020. One consequence of the new requirements, however, was the complete shutdown of both borders which inadvertently affected the daily commuters. Heraeus formed a dedicated task force was formed to review the situation and developed suitable packages of measures in line with the guiding principles of the Heraeus Excellence Initiative to support 53 Malaysian employees that commute daily and were thus impacted by the border closure.
It has been very quiet at the Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints in Singapore which thousands pass through every day. Back in March 2020, the MCO was announced in less than 48-hours and this resulted in many Singapore companies scrambling for solutions to help the employees affected by this mandated order. The Heraeus Singapore task force team quickly addressed the border closure situation. There are very stringent MCO and CB regulations that must be adhered to. “Nonetheless, we gave our employees the choice to stay in Singapore or to remain in Malaysia. In both cases, we pledged our support," explains Hock Hwa Lau, Head of Environment Health Safety & Security, Regional Asia, and co-leader of the task force.
“We are very thankful that our 53 Malaysian employees chose to stay with us to bridge over the situation. In appreciation of their support, we want to ensure that their wellbeing is taken care as they will be away from home for some unknown duration,” adds Lau. The immediate action taken was to book them into hotels for their accommodation, which was not easy as other companies were also doing the same. Sourcing for rented apartments was not an easy task and it took Heraeus several months before the company was able to finally move employees them out of hotels into company rented apartments to give them the ‘feel-at-home’ environment. Some of the affected employees are given housing allowance as they preferred to find their own accommodations. Heraeus also provided a one-time allowance of S$200 for them to settle in, followed by daily allowance to cover their expenses till December 2020. Besides accommodation and financial support, Heraeus also provided a SIM card to each of them so that they can have video calls with family to stay connected and a peace of mind on their wellbeing.
“Our support for our employees goes far beyond providing masks or disinfectants. In fact, the supervisors and managers in the respective Global Business Units check on all employees’ wellbeing and report on weekly basis during the management team meeting,” says Lau.
Since August 2020, the daily commuters have comfortably settled into company rented apartments in groups of two or three and for those who chose to find their own accommodations are sharing a room with their siblings or friends working in Singapore. The cost incurred due to the border closure was also supported by Singapore Government funding programs. By supporting Malaysian employees, Heraeus Singapore is comprehensively meeting the requirements of its Excellence Initiative, which focuses on strong community care within the company to fulfill its desired role as a leading supplier and employer in the region.
Words have spread about Heraeus Singapore's special care for employees. "Even under the challenging conditions of the pandemic, we continue to be recognized and has recently won the bronze award for HR – Employee Experience: Best Employee Wellness Strategy Award 2021" Lau says with satisfaction. It is also fitting that the company is successfully participating in the government's #iGotMyShot vaccination campaign.