Going to the doctor for the sole purpose of getting an MC is something every Singaporean has done at some point in time. When the time comes to buy your medication, you decline, because all you need are water and rest. And you sure don’t need a doctor to tell you to pop a Panadol.
Instead of wasting an hour of your time at the clinic (if you go to a polyclinic, it’s more like 5 hours), if only you could have just stayed home and concentrated on recovering.
Now, some start-ups are starting to realise the inefficiency of the requirement that employees produce an MC to justify their absences from work. These companies operate on an honour sick leave system.
The civil service has also taken baby steps towards implementing the same system by allowing employees up to two days of paid medical leave per year that do not need to be certified by an MC.
However, the vast majority of local companies do not want to do away with the MC system, fearing employees will abuse their freedom by skipping work whenever they feel like it.
Here’s why they should consider the honour sick leave system.
Employees will get rest when they need it
The number of people sniffing away on the MRT, spreading their germs to the other 100 people in their cabin, is huge. It’s not uncommon for Singaporeans to show up at the office when they’re ill, passing the germs around to their colleagues in the process.
Often, going to see a doctor is so troublesome that employees just show up at work. For instance, some companies insist that their employees see the company doctor if they want to claim their medical expenses. But these company doctors are frequently situated in the CBD near the office, so going to the clinic is as good as going all the way to work.
Employees who want to save money by going to a polyclinic on a weekday can expect to be stuck in the queue almost the entire morning, which defeats the purpose of taking the day off to rest.
The honour sick leave system ensures that employees who need rest get it—instead of pulling down productivity levels at the office and infecting everyone else.
Employees who are going to skive won’t do it on the company’s dime
The main reason employers refuse to institute an honour sick leave system is because they’re afraid their employees will skip work for no reason.
What they don’t realise is that the current MC system doesn’t make it any harder to skip work. All the employee has to do is tell the doctor they’ve got a migraine and they instantly get an MC. Worse still, these medical costs often end up being paid by the company if they allow their employees to make claims for medical bills.
Employees have the chance to work from home instead of taking the entire day off
When you have a bad case of the flu, you’re often not too sick to do a bit of work here and there on your computer. But waking up at 7am to rush to the office only to rush home again at 7pm would be too much for you.
The MC system effectively forces workers to choose between taking the entire day off, or commuting to and from the workplace to work an entire day.
On the other hand, workers who have the option of staying home without going to the doctor when they’re not well are more inclined to do a bit of work from home if they’re able to.
Productivity might actually rise
The MC system perpetuates the emphasis on face-time that has caused so many companies to suffer from low productivity levels and low employee morale.
If you’re grievously ill, sending your boss a photo of yourself bleeding to death isn’t enough without an MC to prove you shouldn’t be at work.
Allowing employees to decide for themselves if they’re well enough to work gives them autonomy over the results of their performance, and is the first step towards the company taking a performance-focused, rather than face-time-focused approach towards appraising their workers.
When workers are invested in the results of their work rather than how many hours they spend warming their seats, productivity rises.
One of the respondents in the above article mentioned that when the honour sick leave system was implemented in a Southeast Asian company he had worked in, after a small rise in the amount of sick leave taken in the first six months, employees actually started taking less sick leave than they used to, which he attributes to higher morale and better accountability.
Dissatisfaction with management is a huge problem in local companies. Morale is so low that Singapore employees have been labelled the region’s most disengaged. This creates problems for employers who then turn around and complain that company loyalty is dead and their high turnover rate is hampering productivity.
When morale is low, employees will skive, MC or no MC. Better to concentrate on harnessing the potential of employees than to try to coerce them into submission.
Do you think it is a good idea for companies to adopt an honour sick leave system? Share your views in the comments!