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Sick Leave without Medical Certificate through the eyes of the workforce

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Singapore – More companies are implementing an honour-based system that allows employees to take sick leaves without providing a medical certificate. While the companies are sharing a successful transition to this system and have not experienced alarming cases of abuse and spikes in employee absenteeism, it would seem that this move is highly limited to certain sectors and is not seen as a benefit for some.

Multinational companies operating in Singapore, big corporations and other white-collared, knowledge-based jobs would not have a hard time accepting this policy. A flexible work arrangement can be implemented and with the number of employees they have, they can afford absenteeism. Furthermore, intellect-based work is not limited to the confines of the office, therefore, should employees decide to work-from-home, it would be possible.

President of the Singapore Human Resources Institute Erman Tan has shared some views regarding the effectivity of this system in other industries such as manufacturing and food and beverage, where employees need to be present in order for the business to operate. These industries are not able to offer work-from-home schemes because staff presence is required. Instead, there is a back-up system usually in place for work environments such as this.

Sick leaves and hawkers

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The difficulty in adopting an honour-based sick leave system is especially true for hawker centres and its tenants. First, there’s the problem of strict rules in operating a stall. The owner must be present at all time and can only sublet the stall to another joint operator but both must take turns manning the stall half a day each.

With rentals being expensive and a price cap being placed on the menu, stall owners do not have the luxury of hiring a lot of staff. Which is why it usually the owners themselves who can be seen behind the counter.

A hawker who was interviewed under the alias of Ms. S T shared her unhappy story about the restrictions when it comes to operating her stall. If she falls ill and cannot open her business for the day, a medical certificate must be submitted. Should she choose to change her stall’s operating hours temporarily for personal reasons, she would need the approval of the management.

This holds true for hawker centres under the management of social enterprises. These were introduced a few years ago with hopes of keeping food prices low for consumers but ended up hurting the tenants through higher monthly fees.

Second, social enterprise hawkers are required to keep their stalls open for at least 12 hours a day. Working hours as long as this is not healthy for any human and can lead to over-fatigue which would mean falling ill.

Lastly, the fines and penalties for closing a stall without further notice. Recent news has shown the public about how relentless the management can get with hawkers being unable to operate by charging them with hefty fines.

If a hawker does get sick, instead of getting the needed rest at home, they would then have to go over to a clinic and pay to get a medical certificate. The whole thing seems like a very hastily established system and frankly, quite unfair to the tenants.

The implications

An honour-based sick leave system is one that holds many implications. For those who are actually sick but don’t have the extra money to spend on a doctor’s appointment to get a medical certificate, will be forced to come into work and risk others getting sick as well.

Netizen under the username sense_make expressed his opinion on the matter and compared the system in Singapore with his home country in Europe.

Another, under the username of zoinks10, also made an important point regarding the medical certificates and the profession of doctors in Singapore. Having come from the UK, he has never seen MC’s being handed out as quickly before.

Doctors have also shared their opinion about this system and would actually prefer treating clients who needed medical attention and not medical certificates.

Photo: Ifonlysingaporeans.blogspot.com screengrab

TISG has also contacted other organizations for more information and feedback regarding the honour-based sick leave system.

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