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Do workers in Singapore have the choice of not going to work when feeling unwell?

TODAY Online published an article on 31 August saying that those who are not feeling well should just stay home to avoid transmitting diseases to co-workers.

In the report, a new working paper by the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research is quoted saying that people bring their infectious illness to work, it spreads, and when sick people don’t have a financial incentive to show up to work, fewer people get sick.

Dr Nicolas R. Ziebarth, an assistant professor at Cornell University and one of the study’s researchers, said, "You see people who are at the workplace sneezing and potentially infectious. That’s how diseases spread."

"It’s good to change the culture of how people see each other. You can signal hard work in a lot of different ways. It’s not the right way to go into the office and spread diseases," he added.

Despite all these findings, not all workers in Singapore agree with the statements, saying that they do not have any choice but to show up at work, even though they are not well.

  • Ow Jun Liang wrote, "But if you don't come to work even if you are really sick, you will be condemned."
  • Teddy Chung wrote, "Come to work & you will be a hazard to your colleagues. Don't come to work & you will be a hazard to your boss. Tough decision."
  • Umie Aishah wrote, "Sometimes cough last more than a few days....we can't afford to be away from work too long & it depends on the type of work. Don't make generalisation. Inconsiderate? How abt taking medical leave even though not sick or too sick...that colleagues have to cover your work? Is that considerate?"
  • Frank Chong wrote, "Bosses said:"Come to work sick or get replaced by foreigners."
    "If you are sick, come to work and faint, not only you lose your job, you will be sued too because you got mc.", "Sick? Come work spread to others i laggi more happy; replaced all of you, pay all goes back to starting pay.", "What? People got pay even hospitalised? Are you minister?", "MC? Unless your hands and legs chopped off by terrorists or else not valid no matter from which hospital.""
  • Haziq Evan Rosli wrote, "In Singapore, employers and doctors work hand in hand. Employers don't like MCs and doctors are reluctant to give out MCs. And I checked with a coughing library staff. They are NOT ALLOWED to wear masks when coughing. NLB (National Library Board) so retarded."
  • Lisa Foxx wrote, "SG employers dislike MC, so most will still turn up for work. Singapore doctors usually give no more than 1 day MC so next day still report for work and continue coughing."
  • Sim Johan wrote, "I guess a lot of people don't know .. If u take MC, more than 4 days within the first 6 financial months... You ended up getting "mark".."
  • Kelvin Choo wrote, "Not applicable here. So please educate employers and HR."
  • Ellson Yap wrote, "Taking more than 3 days of sick leaves, will result in no bonus. What you think?"
  • Simon Cheng wrote, "Tell that to my boss!!!"

Under the Employment Act, you are entitled to paid sick leave if:

  • You have served your employer for at least 3 months.
  • You have informed or tried to inform your employer within 48 hours of your absence.
  • Your sick leave is certified by the company's doctor, company-approved doctor or a government doctor (including doctors and dentists from approved public medical institutions).

According to the Ministry of Manpower's FAQ on sick leave, it noted that under the Employment Act, both employer and employee can terminate the contract at any time by giving due notice. This includes employees who are unwell.

MOM wrote that employers are encouraged to treat sick employees with compassion. And that employer’s decision to dismiss an employee should be based on documented poor performance or misconduct.

MOM also wrote that if you’re covered by the Employment Act and feel you’ve been terminated unfairly, or without just cause, you can appeal in writing to the Minister of Manpower. Whether MOM would take any action in regards to the appeal, is a totally other question by itself.

What do you think? Would you go to work if you are feeling unwell?