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Going to work sick: Company bosses must set the right culture

Workers in Singapore told TODAY this week that before the Covid-19 outbreak, it was normal to see unwell colleagues at work. Such behaviour has come under scrutiny amid the coronavirus crisis.
TODAY readers called on firms who reward employees for not taking sick leave to review or stop the practice. Others said company bosses set the tone for such workplace cultures.

TODAY readers say employees with mild flu symptoms should not go to work, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and company bosses are responsible for creating this culture.

TODAY readers say employees with mild flu symptoms should not go to work, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and company bosses are responsible for creating this culture.

Workers in Singapore told TODAY this week that before the Covid-19 outbreak, it was normal to see unwell colleagues at work, as many were worried about confronting a backlog of work or having their colleagues cover their duties. Such behaviour came under scrutiny after the Government said the socially irresponsible actions of a few people had resulted in many locally transmitted cases. 

TODAY readers called on firms who reward employees for not taking sick leave to review or stop the practice. Others said company bosses set the tone for such workplace cultures.

It is all about monetary rewards. Some companies have practices that will reward employees who do not go on medical leave. Thus people will go to work even if they are unwell. This should be looked into. GEORGE LIM

I know of employers who would deduct bonuses or increments if an employee takes medical leave. Such practices should not be allowed. Also, some employers pay an allowance to employees who do not take medical leave. This will entice employees to report for work even when they are ill. This practice should be reviewed. ANGELINA LIEW

Angelina Liew, bonuses and increments are not an entitlement legally anyway. The Ministry of Manpower won't protect employees because of this. ROY YEO

I worked in a multinational corporation in the past under a local boss. I took five days of medical leave over a year. I am entitled to 14 days of medical leave a year. At the end of the year, during my performance review, I hit all my key performance indicators, but my boss gave me feedback that I am an "MC (medical certificate) king”. Many employers don’t like the idea of a worker calling in sick. My boss is one of many who feel that unless you are unable to get out of bed, you are never too ill to come to work. Even when we work remotely, the bosses will feel that we are skiving — sadly we have a long way to go towards changing such a mentality. MARK TAN 

Employers have no right to question whether an employee is sick when the employee is on medical leave. If they take issue with it, that means they are questioning the doctor who issued the MC. FADLY AZAD

Some people go to work so that they don't spread the bug to family members at home, such as children and elderly people. So, they minimise time spent at home. To them, everyone in the office can be sick but not their family. LIANG HANYI 

Many sick employees go to work out of a sense of responsibility, so as not to burden or overload their colleagues who may need to cover their duties. FRANCIS CHENG 

Kids who are unwell cannot afford to stay home because their homework will pile up. Likewise, if adults were to fall sick and stay home, their work will pile up and their colleagues will probably call them at home. There is no chance to rest at all. They might as well go to work. MAGGIE CHIA 

You can never finish your work. When it is time to rest, find ways to rest. Life is not only about work. QX TAN

A doctor gave me two days of medical leave when I was sick earlier this year. I told the doctor to give me just one day of sick leave first and that if I am better, I will return to work the next day. In the end, on the second day I still felt giddy, so I took two days of sick leave. My boss was unhappy and asked me to try to cut down on sick leave as the company was not doing well, hinting that it might affect my performance. It is horrible listening to how he thought I was feigning sickness. Some bosses and companies don’t deserve our kindness. Learn to appreciate your staff and do not think they have no other opportunity to go to. AILEEN KOH 

I don’t think it is the fault of the sick who still go to work. I once heard the chief executive officer (CEO) of a large company complain during a meeting about a guy who was running a fever and unwell, and did not attend the meeting or come to work. The CEO proudly said that he is sick, but he is still at work. So ultimately, who sets the culture and whose fault is it? TZE LIANG JONATHAN GOH

This culture of employees with mild flu symptoms going to work must stop, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. At normal times, people go around spreading germs to one another in the office, but there are medicines and vaccines to fix the problem. With Covid-19, it is an unknown threat with no vaccine yet. Therefore, spreading germs and weakening other people's immune systems must not be allowed. The new culture should be as follows: If anyone sees a colleague, family member, friend or neighbour who is sneezing or shows mild symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat or runny nose, he or she must tell the person to put on a mask, stop work and see a doctor. ANG AH SIN

Notwithstanding Covid-19, going to work when sick is plain dumb, since one’s colleagues will also get infected, ultimately pulling down overall productivity. Bosses should not be so shortsighted. And if malingering is a concern, then perhaps offer more annual leave than the minimum required by the Employment Act, and be more forthcoming about granting leave. This should go some way towards reducing the number of “MC kings and queens”. Most importantly, to reduce the MCs taken, stop stressing workers unnecessarily. WZ TOH 

Our mindsets and working culture need to change. Our social etiquette needs to change. We should learn from this and improve. ASHTALAXMI DINAKARAN

These comments were first posted on TODAY’s Facebook page. They have been edited for clarity, accuracy and length.

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human resource workers companies Covid-19 coronavirus Wuhan virus

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