HR experts: Health incentives better than penalties

The issue of sick leave has arisen after the death of an SIA stewardess.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Subsidised gym memberships, free fruit days or shopping vouchers - these are how some companies are rewarding their employees to keep them healthy.

Healthy employees mean a healthy bottom line for employers, said Ms Linda Teo, country manager of recruitment firm ManpowerGroup Singapore.

"These initiatives have the same goal of equipping employees with the knowledge and skills to take ownership of their individual health," she told The New Paper.

"These incentives tend to be popular with healthy employees, mainly because it is easily achievable."

Read also: SIA refutes netizen's claims over MC rules

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan said some companies have strict policies because of the nature of their business.

He said: "There is a need to instil a certain level of discipline, including health, personal hygiene and behaviour for operational reasons. It could be to maintain high customer service, and to ensure that employees are in top condition."

But misunderstandings may arise if the reason for the health-linked rewards is not communicated clearly to employees, both experts said.

The issue of sick leave arose after TNP reported on the grievances of some Singapore Airlines (SIA) crew members following the death of an air stewardess, who was said to be unwell two days before her passing.

At least 15 people, most of them SIA employees, later claimed they were discouraged from taking medical certificates (MC) for common ailments as it could affect their promotion prospects.

Read also: SIA reassures cabin crew on medical leave system


The Manpower Ministry then stepped in to say that all employees are entitled to medical leave.

On Wednesday, SIA assured its staff in a circular that the MC component makes up only 4 to 6 per cent of the total score in promotion reviews.

SIA also said it tracks those who take many days of sick leave to ensure they are all right and to ensure there is no abuse of MCs.

Ms Teo said the weightage on an employee's medical leave record at performance appraisal usually constitutes a very small percentage, and it serves as brownie points for those who stay healthy.

She added: "It is the employers' responsibility to emphasise this point to their employees, and that any health-related reward scheme is an incentive and not a penalty."

Mr Tan said workers who are sick should not report for work as they could infect their colleagues or affect operations.

"It is more responsible for individuals to ensure they are fit enough to work, rather than force themselves to work because they are afraid to lose their incentives," he said.

Read also: Practice of punishing employees for taking MCs can backfire

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This article was first published on Feb 10, 2017. Get The New Paper for more stories.