Rewarding those who take less sick leave common

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) air stewardess and an air steward returning from a flight at Changi Airport Terminal 2.
A Singapore Airlines (SIA) air stewardess and an air steward returning from a flight at Changi Airport Terminal 2.PHOTO: ST FILE

Attendance often reviewed in appraisal, but SIA's practice unusual: HR agencies, unions

The practice of incentivising employees to take less medical leave is prevalent in workplaces here, say human resources agencies and union representatives.

ManpowerGroup Singapore's country manager Linda Teo told The Straits Times some firms give workers with good attendance monetary rewards, and most review medical leave records during appraisals, which can affect bonuses.

A Straits Times report yesterday said that some Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew are unhappy with the company's medical leave system - where crew members allegedly lose incentive points when they submit medical certificates (MC) for common ailments like cough and cold.

According to sources who wished to remain anonymous, these points are taken into account in staff's annual appraisals, making up less than 5 per cent of the weightage. The Manpower Ministry is in touch with SIA's union and management about the crew members' concerns.

HR firms and unions said SIA's practice of upfront incentives for attendance, if true, is unusual compared with other industries.

Ms Teo said SIA's approach is "more unique" as it rewards employees upfront. She said a more common practice is to reward employees during year-end appraisals if they maintain an MC-free record. "This incentivises the employees to work towards a goal of zero or low MC record and not view this additional incentive as an entitlement."

Others, however, were indignant.

Quantum Leap Career Consultancy's director of talent acquisition, Mr Alvin Ang, said: "I don't think this (SIA's system) is the right thing to do. You are using something which instils fear."

He sees SIA's system as distinct from the "attendance bonus" common in service sectors such as retail and food and beverage.

F&B giants Crystal Jade and BreadTalk Group declined to comment when contacted.

Ms K. Thanaletchimi, president of the Healthcare Services Employees' Union, said employers should be more empathetic and find out why people take sick leave. "If you just label a person as a 'poor performer' (for taking sick leave), that is unfair practice," said Ms Thanaletchimi, who is also a nominated MP.

Some organisations are more willing to trust their employees. Since 2013, civil servants have been entitled to up to two rest days where they do not need MCs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Rewarding those who take less sick leave common'. Print Edition | Subscribe