Mr Brenton Ong Kho Keong's concern about allowing sick leave without medical certification is understandable ("Allowing sick leave without MC won't enhance productivity"; last Saturday).
As an occupational health physician, I, however, propose that the uncertified sick leave policy does make sense from a business perspective.
Employers stand to benefit in the following ways:
- Reduced medical claims for minor ailments. For example, it is generally unnecessary to see a doctor for common coughs and colds.
- Lower presenteeism rates. This refers to staff who are not well but nevertheless choose to go to work. They would end up being unproductive or, worse still, transmit infections to their colleagues or pose safety hazards.
- The uncertified sick leave policy is premised on trust and the assumption that people can and will take responsibility for their own health. This adds to overall staff morale and encourages social responsibility, both of which are known to be positively associated with better productivity.
Employers will not be powerless, as they can limit the number of uncertified sick days allowed.
Informal reports from companies that have already implemented this show that only a small proportion of employees actually claim uncertified sick leave.
Employees who fully consume their medical leave are usually the minority.
If we disregard employees who have serious or chronic medical conditions, the phenomenon of staff fully consuming their medical leave every year raises questions about staff morale, job satisfaction and employee engagement in the company - all of which are known to influence productivity and should be addressed head-on by management.
Reducing the entitlement of paid medical leave does not help in these circumstances.
Judy Sng Gek Khim (Dr)