Should Singapore Update its Inflexible Sick Leave Legislation?


Singapore employee rights groups have been in their element this month a member of the Singapore parliament submitted a bill requesting a 3-day blanket exception per year for taking medical sick leave without the need to submit a Doctor’s Medical Certificate.

As the law currently stands in Singapore, employees requesting a medical leave of absence from work have to present a stamped and certified certificate, proving a visit to a licensed medical practitioner has taken place during the requested time off work, no matter how small the reasoning for the leave.

The number of Singapore-based employers trying to operate like a trendy flexi start-up have increased; many companies are trying to promote that Google-style of living and working in harmony without being constrained by bureaucracies from outdated HR practices. However, a large number of traditional style companies still exist that require employees to produce a medical certificate when taking sick leave.

Employers have expressed concerns regarding the use of new honour-based flexi working style of taking a leave-based absence about lazy workers who may abuse such systems, which is holding many Singapore employers back from exploring a more flexible approach.

Employee rights campaigners have been urging larger companies still using outdated systems to place their fears aside and start to trust that their employees will use a less invasive system without abusing it. Employee engagement and productivity will be higher if they are treated as the most fundamental asset to every company; especially when they feel valued and trusted by their employers. Implementing a trust-based leave system is a good way to make employees feel accountable within their teams and companies.

Singapore-based Invesso, a leading developer and marketer of software products has always upheld a limitless sick leave per-annum system, and found that their employees became more committed and receptive, as they felt safe to spend time resting up and recuperating on their sick days instead of going to the doctor to obtain a medical certificate.

For minor ailments such as a cold headache which doesn’t need the attention of a Doctor, employees in Invesso can decide if they are fit or unfit to work; additionally, employing work from home schemes without the need to attend the office 5-days a week. This has helped the company retain high caliber workers in the long-term.

Essentially, trust is a two way street, however businesses should take the first step in building a good relationship as they have the power and means to do so: Employers can create and nurture sentiments of loyalty and boost productivity through mutual trust and respect.