Singapore — President Halimah Yacob weighed in on the case of a worker who refused a swab test even though he had Covid-19 symptoms.
A. Rahim M. Taha, a pest control technician, had been coughing for three weeks when he went to Yishun Polyclinic in October 2020 and was told he needed to get a PCR test and would have to stay home to wait for the results.
He declined to be tested because he did not want to lose that extra $100 monthly attendance allowance he received for showing up punctually for work and not taking sick leave. Instead, Rahim continued to work and potentially exposed others to Covid.
President Halimah called his actions “without a doubt irresponsible” but understood his plight. As she said in a much-shared Jan 18 Facebook post, his case “also highlights another common employment practice that can be detrimental to workers” because it incentivises workers to continue to report for their duties even when they are ill.
“The real solution is to make sure that low-wage workers are paid better so that they don’t have to depend on such incentives to survive,” MAdAm Halimah said
“For companies that pay such an attendance allowance, what they wish to deter is abuse of sick leave and not penalise those who are genuinely sick by depriving them of the payment.”
Given the current pandemic, she said, it is “not fair” that workers be deprived of their attendance allowance if they are required to absent themselves because of Covid, or have to wait for test results to see if they are positive or not.
“Employers should make this clear to workers,” she added.
Rahim, now 60, had pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one charge of flouting Covid-19 rules and received a five-week jail sentence.
The Straits Times and other news media reported that the pest control technician earns around $1,500 monthly. He would get an additional $100 each month for being punctual and for not taking any medical leave.
Commenting on Madam Halimah’s post, many netizens thanked her for standing up for low-wage workers.
One commenter quoted a line from Spider-Man about those who have great powers:
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