Assessing sick leave a balancing act

Medical leave should not be viewed as an entitlement that must be fully utilised annually. ("Some SIA cabin crew unhappy over medical leave system"; Feb 7).

Employers believe that the majority of their workforce would not take medical leave unless they are really sick, but there will be pockets of malingerers.

An employer's duty is to ensure that genuinely sick employees are taken care of, but those who abuse the system should be taken to task.

To prevent abuse, employers may insist that employees see only medical practitioners appointed by the company or government doctors.

If doctors outside of the company's panel are consulted, it is up to the discretion of the company whether to accept the medical certificate (MC) issued.

There are cases of employees who continue working despite being given medical leave.

In such cases, both employer and employee must reach an understanding on accountability, should anything untoward occur as a result.

With today's technology and connectivity, an employee may even be able to work from home.

Then, there are employees who, for some reason, do not tell the company they have been given an MC, and continue to work.

We also need to recognise that staff appraisal and ranking procedures cannot be a one-size-fits-all, and yet there is a need to be fair and objective to all employees.

Therefore, genuinely sick employees who have performed well should not be penalised for their medical leave, and malingerers must be penalised during their appraisal.

There is nothing wrong with rewarding those who are healthy and MC-free. This encourages the other employees to stay healthy.

Perhaps, an MC-free incentive should be awarded every quarter instead of yearly, so that employees would not feel they will be penalised during appraisal of the whole year's performance for being sick for a short stretch.

It is a matter of balancing incentives and corrective actions without compromising safety, morale and productivity at work.

Delane Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2017, with the headline 'Assessing sick leave a balancing act'. Print Edition | Subscribe