Companies should not appraise or pay employees based on their use of sick leave: Tan See Leng

The Manpower Ministry can take action against companies that do not comply with the guidelines. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - It is not reasonable or fair practice to appraise or pay workers based on how much medical leave they use, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Monday (Feb 14).

The Manpower Ministry will work with trade associations and chambers to clarify to employers that attendance-based incentive schemes go against the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP), he said.

"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.

The ministry can take action against companies that do not comply with the guidelines, which supplement the law and require employers to appraise and pay employees in a fair and objective manner, taking into consideration their performance and contributions.

Responding to separate parliamentary questions from Nominated MP Shahira Abdullah and Workers' Party MP Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC), Dr Tan said the ministry does not collect data on the prevalence of attendance-related incentive schemes.

These may have emerged over time as a way to help deter malingering and promote discipline among workers, but the tripartite partners - which refer to the Government, Singapore National Employers Federation and National Trades Union Congress - believe such schemes 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," said Dr Tan.

"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," he added.

The issue came to the fore last month after a pest control technician was jailed for five weeks after flouting Covid-19 rules and refusing a swab test as he was afraid to lose his $100 attendance allowance if he went on medical leave.

The case was highlighted in a Facebook post by President Halimah Yacob, who said the key is to ensure that low-wage workers are paid better so that they are not dependent on such work incentives to survive.

The Straits Times also reported last month that incentivising workers to take less sick leave is prevalent in some industries here.

Dr Tan said on Monday that the tripartite partners have been actively working with companies that have such schemes to restructure them into productivity and welfare schemes that do not take into account sick leave.

Some companies have switched to providing wellness benefits, for example.

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