Companies are Rewarding Employees Who Don’t Go on MC—Here’s Why That’s Bad For Productivity

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“Going on MC” in Singapore doesn’t always mean you’re too sick to work—at least according to some employers in Singapore.

A recent news report aimed the spotlight at one of Singapore Airlines’ HR policies, which penalises cabin crew for taking medical leave for ailments that are deemed insufficiently serious, such as coughs and colds.

This shed light on the fact that rewarding employees for “taking MC” is actually quite a common HR practice in Singapore companies. This is disturbing on many levels.

 

Rewarding people for not taking MC sends out the message that they can choose whether or not to be sick

Technically speaking, taking medical leave is not something that’s within an employee’s control. If they’re sick and unfit for duty, they should not be showing up at the office, spreading germs to others and endangering their own health.

It’s true that there are employees who abuse the MC system by calling in sick when their only ailment is an acute case of not being able to stop snoozing the alarm in the morning. But by upholding such policies, some companies are only reinforcing the view that taking medical leave is a choice.

Worse still, they encourage the culture of presenteeism, and there are always a few kiasu employees who will turn up even when they’re almost at death’s door.

 

Many companies are not ready to operate on a system of trust for fear that employees will abuse it

While the majority of employers in Singapore require their employees to submit an MC when they call in sick, not all have this rule.

For instance, civil servants can take up to two days off when they don’t feel well. Some European banks in Singapore allow their employees two to three days of MC-free rest.

Actually, if the company reimburses employees for doctors’ visits or allows them the use of a company doctor, it actually costs them money if their employees have to produce an MC for every absence.

Still, the reason companies refuse to let their employees get away with an MC is simply because they fear abuse of the system. This is ironic as employees can almost as easily abuse the system by visiting a doctor, feigning a migraine and submitting the MC to his employer.

 

What are the causes of people “taking MC” when they’re not ill?

It’s easy enough to dismiss employees who abuse the system as slackers who just want to get paid for sleeping at home.

But what can employers do to reduce the number of employees who do so?

Allow flexiwork whenever possible: It might sound counterintuitive, but enabling employees some flexibility can actually lower the incidences of people needlessly going on MC.

Employees often go on MC because they have woken up late and can’t make it to work on time, or because they had a long night and are too tired to show up at work early. Doesn’t sound pretty but that’s the truth.

They often cannot use their annual leave instead as they’re expected to seek approval beforehand. Allowing people to work flexible hours or from home would eliminate such incidences.

Assess employees based on performance rather than face time: A culture of presenteeism pushes some employees to feign illness to justify their absence.

By assessing employees on their actual output rather than how much time they spend at the office, employees will instead be forced to focus on their performance whether or not they’re at the office—and employers will be able to warn or counsel employees when they are not performing, and not because they’re not showing their faces at the office enough. In the long run, that is better for the company.

Employees also sometimes choose to call in sick when they’re feeling slightly unwell if they work in an environment that demands long hours or a lot of face time. If they know they will need to stay at the office till 8pm if they show up and will be marked down by the boss if they leave at 6pm, they are more likely to opt to just take the day off.

Obviously, for workers that are paid by the hour or need to be physically present, such as those in the service line, it is not possible to assess performance without taking into account face time, but for the vast numbers of knowledge workers it is.

Does your employer reward those who don’t go on MC? Tell us in the comments!

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

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