To MC or not to MC?

The haze crisis has certainly dug up several issues and discussions, among which the blaming game and the government’s hesitance to issue a stop-work order. The last topic to get netizens riled up seems to be how MCs take a toll on companies.

During the haze period, clinics reported giving out 5 to 10% more MCs than usual. No doubt many of these people were genuinely sick from the haze, but how many of them were actually taking this opportunity to “cry haze” and take some days off work?

Last year, general practitioner Dr David Tan wrote in to the Straits Times Forum suggesting to remove the need for an MC for sick leave, and instead have an honour system that allows employees to call-in sick for a day or two without seeing the doctor.

I can definitely see the appeal of such an honour system right away, as can many others.

For one, it would take significant strain off our overloaded healthcare system. We are all more than familiar with the crazy long queues at our polyclinics:

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According to health experts, such an honour system might shrink polyclinic queues by up to one-fifth, as about 30 to 40% of the patients have simple conditions like coughs and colds, and more than half are working adults who don’t really need the consultation and medication as they can recover with a day’s rest and over-the-counter medication.

But because they need to produce an MC, they have no choice but to see the doctor.

Obviously, employees support implementing a system where they can stop doing this.

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(Source: VR Zone Forum)

More importantly though, the time doctors spend on these “unnecessary” patients could be spent on patients who genuinely need more thorough medical attention.

Companies themselves stand to gain from such an honour system as well.

The cost of providing employees with health care is expensive. According to an estimate, it could range from $800 to $1,400 per worker and per year. Especially for small and medium businesses who reimburse employees’ medical expenses per occurrence, a lot of costs can be saved if employees do not have to see the doctor every time they need to take a sick leave.

Ironically, it is mostly the SMBs who are still stubbornly sticking with the system of producing MCs for sick leaves.

Despite the benefits of an honour system, there are many who are certain that such a system would not work in Singapore. The potential for abuse of the honour system is the primary obstacle we have:

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While we would all like to be treated like mature adults who would sensibly build mutual trust with our employers/employees, you can’t really blame people who have this little faith in Singaporean employees when they say things like that:

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(Source: My Car Forum)

Be that as it may, it has also been pointed out that we shouldn’t be put off by fear of abuse. In a real case study of a company who went on the honour system, there was a spike in staff going on uncertified sick leave only initially, which was not sustained long term. As the writer puts it, the fear of occasional abuse by some should not hold up the implementation of a scheme that has widespread benefits for everyone else.

Besides, with or without MCs, employees are already abusing the sick leave anyway. We all know that there are people who “chao keng” and feign illness at the doctor to get an MC.

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(Source: Spatchy)

The point is, these people can ultimately be identified and disciplined appropriately, even under an honour system.

With the right parameters and incentives, I believe the honour sick leave system can benefit both employers and employees.

Companies can limit these uncertified sick leave to a certain number of days a year, and not more than 2 days in a row. Additionally, if employees can convert their unused sick leave into some sort of bonus at the end of the year, they wouldn’t be as inclined to use up all their sick days with this “easier-to-fake” honour method.

It’s far past the time to start treating Singaporeans as mature adults, and this could be a significant step. Some might say if we want to be treated as adults, we should start acting like adults. To that I say, throw us in the deep end, we’ll survive!

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Lavinia Lim

Yoga, writing, dancing, reading....

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