Calls to allow sick leave without doctor’s note in Singapore

A proposal calls for employees in Singapore to be allowed to call in sick up to three days without a doctor’s note.
By: | November 29, 2018


If a proposed bill goes through, employees in Singapore may soon be allowed to take up to three days of non-consecutive sick leave per year without a doctor’s note.

Nominated Member of Parliament and President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore, Irene Quay, has proposed to allow sick leave without submitting medical certificates (MCs), as it could help increase employee morale and boost trust.

Quay noted that individuals with common ailments such as the flu might inevitably spread their illnesses at the clinics.

“Apart from being unproductive and potentially spreading your contagion, being out and about would actually exacerbate your illness when you should be getting much-needed rest at home,” she said.

“One may even conveniently ask for unwarranted antibiotics since they are already at the clinic, contributing to global antimicrobial resistance problems.”

Quay was speaking on the Employment (Amendment) Bill, in which only MCs issued by the government and company-appointed doctors are recognised currently. An amended bill under the Employment Act will ensure that employers recognised MCs from all doctors.

The move to allow sick leave without an MC will showcase “a strong signal of trust” between employers and employees, helping to “increase accountability and morale”, according to Quay.

The Employment Act does not actually prohibit employers from doing so currently – employees are already allowed to take sick leave without MCs in certain organisations,

“But there is a need for the Ministry of Manpower to mandate it in the Act so that these benefits can be accelerated across the nation, rather than to let nature take its course,” Quay said.

She acknowledged that the system is not without its flaws, and while admitting that a small minority of individuals are prone to abusing the system, highlighted that the pros surpass the “small number of abuse cases”. She noted that audits and provisions have been proposed to overcome abuse, and also highlighted the idea of a “surveillance system to look out for cluster infections”.

However, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that ensuring compliance to the system, and mitigating potential abuse, would increase operational costs for businesses. She did add that businesses here were welcome to introduce such a system nonetheless.

“As the Employment Act does not prohibit employers from (according sick leave without MCs), progressive companies are free to go ahead to offer this as part of their talent attraction and retention strategies,” she said.