Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Manpower (a) whether the Ministry tracks the number of companies that give employees an attendance allowance provided they do not take medical leave; (b) whether the Ministry can consider mandating companies to suspend this practice and incorporate the “attendance allowance” into base pay, given public health concerns in the current COVID-19 climate; and (c) if not, whether the Ministry can consider further safeguards to ensure sick employees are not disincentivised to take medical leave when necessary.
Dr Tan See Leng: We do not collect data on the prevalence of attendance-related incentive schemes. Such schemes may have emerged over time as a way to help deter malingering and instil a more disciplined workforce.
While they may have been created with these outcomes in mind, the tripartite partners are of the view that attendance-related schemes that consider sick leave utilisation should no longer be seen as a reasonable or fair practice. As a matter of principle, if an employee is unwell, he should seek medical attention, firstly for his own well-being, and secondly, for the well-being of his co-workers. To the extent that attendance incentive schemes discourage the taking of sick leave, even if unintentionally, it contradicts the overriding principle to protect the well-being of workers.
Today, the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP) require employers to appraise and remunerate employees in a fair and objective manner, taking into consideration the employees’ performance and contributions. For the avoidance of doubt, we will make clear that appraising or remunerating employees based on consumption of sick leave entitlement goes against this principle. The tripartite partners will clarify this point to all stakeholders.
The tripartite partners have been actively working with companies that have these schemes to restructure them into productivity and welfare schemes that do not take into account sick leave. Companies have made progress – for example, some have adjusted their schemes to provide wellness benefits, which contribute to employees’ well-being and productivity at the workplace. MOM will also work with other trade associations and chambers to clarify the understanding of the TGFEP. We will allow companies some time to review and make adjustments where necessary. Starting next year, it will be very clear that such schemes are contrary to the TGFEP.
Ministry of Manpower
14 February 2022