President Halimah slams practice of forfeiting allowance of workers when they take sick leave

Simply not fair.

Belmont Lay | January 19, 2022, 03:17 AM

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Singapore President Halimah Yacob has called out the practice of employers depriving workers of their attendance allowance, saying it is detrimental to the employees and the public during a health crisis.

In a Facebook post on Jan. 18, she slammed the practice as "not fair" as employees cannot earn the extra incentive just because they have to go on sick leave due to Covid-19, or while waiting for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results.

Her post was in response to a recent case of a pest control technician who was jailed five weeks for potentially exposing the public to the Covid-19 virus as he badly wanted to earn the S$100 incentive by not being absent even when he was ill.

The case

A Rahim M Taha, 60, visited the doctor for severe coughing in October 2020 but refused the swab test and medical leave he was told to take.

He told the doctor that he would stand to lose a S$100 work incentive from his company if he was absent.

The accused took home a S$1,500 basic salary as a team supervisor at a pest control company, and the extra S$100 was a substantial 7 per cent increment in his take home pay for that month.

He went to work the following day and showed up at five locations over seven hours, and even ate lunch with colleagues in his van.

Man's actions irresponsible but understandable

Halimah wrote: "The man’s action is without a doubt irresponsible as he could infect others if he was positive."

But she also came to the man's defence, saying he could have needed the extra S$100, which is "a lot of money" to feed his family.

The money could also be "used to purchase necessities".

Such incentives could even end up jeopadising one's health, as well as the health of co-workers.

"Incentivising workers to work even when sick, can be dangerous too for those operating machines as it exposes them and others to injury", she added.

Low wage workers ought to be paid better

The real solution, Halimah said, is to make sure that low wage workers are paid better, so they don’t have to depend on such incentives to survive.

The onus on explaining company policy has to then lie with the employer, she explained.

Halimah wrote: “For companies that pay such an attendance allowance, what they wish to deter is abuse of sick leave and not penalise those who are genuinely sick by depriving them of the payment.”

"Employers should make this clear to workers."

Top photo via Halimah Yacob