Employers should not request MC from Covid-19 positive workers: Tan See Leng

Employers and company HR departments should familiarise themselves with the prevailing Covid-19 health protocols.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - All employers here should not request medical certificates from workers who test positive for Covid-19 as the healthcare system continues to face stresses from rising infections amid the Omicron wave, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Tuesday (Feb 22).

Employers and company HR departments should familiarise themselves with prevailing Covid-19 health protocols and excuse employees from returning to their workplaces for the periods required, he told reporters at an interview at the Ministry of Manpower's headquarters in Havelock Road. 

There is also no need to require employees to produce recovery memos or medical assessments from a doctor before allowing them to go back to work after the required isolation period, the minister said.

Singaporeans who want to get an official infection record can make an appointment to undergo a self-administered antigen rapid test (ART) under supervision at one of the combined test centres or quick test centres around the island.

These tests will be fully funded by the Government until March 15, and the test results will be reflected on one's HealthHub status within 30 minutes.

Those who undergo supervised ARTs at these testing centres will also get an SMS notification of their test result, which can be used as documentary proof of past infection.

Dr Tan said the stress on the healthcare system here has been felt especially acutely by general practitioner clinics, polyclinics and hospital emergency departments (EDs).

"The GPs and the EDs report that a great majority of patients who go to them have either no symptoms or mild symptoms. Doctors have also shared that many patients have been visiting them for the sole purpose of obtaining medical certificates just so they can submit them to their workplaces," he said.

"I want to reiterate that these visits are not necessary and they risk compromising the standard of care for other patients who genuinely require (it)."

Dr Tan said he was making this appeal in the light of reports on social media and feedback from colleagues about long lines at clinics and emergency departments here.

"My encouragement, my strong exhortation to everyone is that if you have very mild symptoms or no symptoms of Covid-19, there is no need for you to go to the GP clinic, to the polyclinics or to the EDs of public hospitals just to get an MC.

"You should just be able to tell your employers that you are not well and that you have tested ART-positive.

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"I think it's important to gain everyone's cooperation, everyone's support, in this particular period, especially given the fact that there is quite a fair bit of resource constraints."

Dr Tan said he understood that there may be concerns about absenteeism but he called upon HR departments and HR managers to be more understanding.

"This is just a phase we are going through," he said.

"You don't have to add an additional administrative burden, or bureaucratic hurdles, for this entire process, especially during this period of time."

In a written reply to a question filed by Jurong GRC MP Xie Yao Quan in Parliament last Friday, Dr Tan had said that the Ministry of Manpower, the Singapore National Employers Federation and the National Trades Union Congress have not come across disputes arising from employers not adhering to guidelines on Covid-19 protocols, which include allowing workers to self-isolate under Protocol 2 without an MC.

Protocol 2 involves isolating at home for the first 72 hours after testing positive, taking an ART afterwards, and ending isolation after getting a negative result.

Employees whose employers insist on MCs for sick leave for Covid-19 infection should refer their employers to this website or approach MOM for further assistance, Dr Tan had said.

This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.