From April, Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew will no longer have their incentive points docked when they take sick leave for common ailments such as coughs and colds.
The change, which comes about a year after staff complained that the current system discourages those who are genuinely ill from resting at home, is part of a broader overhaul of the appraisal system, The Straits Times has found out.
An SIA spokesman confirmed that the current system, which also takes into account areas such as customer feedback, as well as cabin crew's knowledge of operational and regulatory matters, will be "restructured".
She did not provide details but said the changes aim to "more accurately reflect their (cabin crew) work performance".
Under the current system, each cabin crew member starts with 10 incentive points a year, which are progressively deducted and all lost once 12 casual medical certificates (MCs) are accumulated.
An MC is recorded as casual if it is submitted for common ailments.
The MC component makes up 4 to 6 per cent of the annual appraisal.
While cabin crew have been unhappy about the system for many years, their grouses resurfaced in February last year after a stewardess was found dead in her hotel room in San Francisco.
She had allegedly told her colleagues that she was not feeling well. The cause of death has not been made public.
At the time, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) stepped in to say that paid sick and hospitalisation leave is "a basic protection" under the Employment Act and a core benefit in collective agreements.
An MOM spokesman said then that employers should avoid penalising an employee solely based on consumption of sick leave.
Employers should adopt appraisal or performance management systems which are fair and objective, and which take into consideration the employee's ability, performance and contributions, MOM said then.
SIA's decision to restructure its appraisal system for cabin crew is a good move, said human resource expert David Leong from PeopleWorldwide Consulting.
"What is deemed casual MC is really a situation of mistrust between the human resource department, staff and the doctor involved," he said.
"Companies which do not outrightly say so but look less favourably on staff who take MC... see people as arid and mechanical assets. Such practices will not endear employees to the organisations."
While there will always be staff who take advantage of sick leave, there are better ways to monitor and discipline them without having to penalise all employees, other experts said.
Mr Alan Tan, president of the Singapore Airlines Staff Union - SIA's biggest union, which represents cabin crew - said: "We have been in talks with management to address the unhappiness and concern among staff and look forward to the changes that will be made to the appraisal system."