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Attendance incentives tied to employees' sick leave should no longer be seen as fair practice: MOM

Attendance incentives tied to employees' sick leave should no longer be seen as fair practice: MOM

Elderly workers in uniform carrying their takeaway lunches. (File Photo: CNA/Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: Attendance-related incentive schemes that consider employees' use of sick leave “should no longer be seen as a reasonable or fair practice”, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Monday (Feb 14).

Authorities “will make clear” that appraising or remunerating employees in such a manner goes against the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP).

“The tripartite partners will clarify this point to all stakeholders,” he said in a written reply to parliamentary questions.

Incentives for workers who do not take medical leave made the news recently after a pest control technician was jailed for refusing a COVID-19 swab test because he did not want to forfeit a monthly work incentive.

The 60-year-old man, A Rahim M Taha, had a cough for three weeks and was told by a doctor to take a swab test and stay home. But he went to work the next day and went on job calls at five locations.

The court heard that Rahim earned a basic salary of S$1,500 a month at a pest control company. If he fulfilled certain conditions, including not taking any medical leave during the month, he would be given an additional S$100 allowance.

Experts had previously told CNA that such schemes tend to be common in shift work or for lower-wage workers.

In his reply, Dr Tan said authorities do not collect data on the prevalence of such attendance-related schemes.

"Such schemes may have emerged over time as a way to help deter malingering and instil a more disciplined workforce. While they may have been created with these outcomes in mind, the tripartite partners are of the view that attendance-related schemes that consider sick leave utilisation should no longer be seen as a reasonable or fair practice," he said.

“As a matter of principle, if an employee is unwell, he should seek medical attention, firstly for his own well-being, and secondly, for the well-being of his co-workers,” the minister said.

“To the extent that attendance incentive schemes discourage the taking of sick leave, even if unintentionally, it contradicts the overriding principle to protect the well-being of workers.”

Tripartite partners have been working with companies that have these schemes “to restructure them into productivity and welfare schemes that do not take into account sick leave”, Dr Tan said.

Companies have made progress, he added, citing how some have adjusted their schemes to provide wellness benefits.

The Manpower Ministry will also work with other trade associations and chambers to clarify the understanding of the fair employment guidelines.

“We will allow companies some time to review and make adjustments where necessary. Starting next year, it will be very clear that such schemes are contrary to the TGFEP,” he said.

Source: CNA/sk(gs)

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