This article was first published on 20 November 2020 and has been updated with additional information from statistics released by the Ministry of Law.
Businesses have a responsibility for their workers’ health and well-being. Besides being the right thing to do, providing adequate medical benefits and entitlements is also part of Singapore’s Employment Act governing companies’ obligations to their employees.
The first layer of this comes through an employee’s salary. Businesses are obligated to make CPF contributions of up to 17% of employees’ salaries. A chunk of this goes towards healthcare and medical security in their MediSave Account (MA).
Employers Are Required To Provide Medical Benefits And Entitlements To Employees
#1 Sick Leave And Hospitalisation Leave
The Singapore Employment Act details that employees who have worked for at least 3 months are entitled to paid sick and hospitalisation leave each year. This must be certified by a medical practitioner.
|Length Of Service||Sick Leave||Hospitalisation Leave |
(Inclusive Of Sick Leave)
|3 months to 4 months||5||15|
|4 months to 5 months||8||30|
|5 months to 6 months||11||45|
|6 months and more||14||60|
Singapore employees get up to 14 days of paid sick leave each year, if no hospitalisation is necessary. Typically, employees are required to produce a Medical Certificate (MC).
However, if an employee absents himself on sick leave not certified by a medical practitioner, he is deemed as being absent without permission or reasonable excuse. The same thing can be deemed for employees on sick leave certified by a medical practitioner not appointed by the employer, but did not inform or attempt to inform the employer within 48 hours.
While not generally accepted in the workplace, it is within an employee’s right to be on sick leave without letting their employers know for up to 48 hours.
If hospitalisation is necessary, employees are entitled to 60 days of paid hospitalisation leave each year. This paid hospitalisation leave falls under an employee’s sick leave entitlement, and thus is inclusive of the 14 days paid sick leave.
#2 “Quarantine Leave”
While not technically termed a quarantine leave, the Employment Act clearly states that “an employee is hospitalised if employee is warded in a hospital in such circumstances as may be prescribed or is under quarantine (whether or not in a hospital) under any written law”.
This is definitely more relevant in the current climate as people were indeed served with quarantine orders or stay-home notices (SHN) in 2020. Even now, anyone who has COVID-19 or is a close contact of a COVID-19 patient may require to be quarantined or put on SHN. Employers are required to treat such employees as if they were on paid hospitalisation leave.
#3 “Stay-Home Leave”
The Employment Act also states that an employee can rest at home and be considered to be hospitalised, even if they are not actually warded. An employee can be certified by an approved public medical institute “to be ill enough to require hospitalisation” or require rest or further medical treatment after their discharge from a hospital.
#4 Reimbursement Of Medical Consultation Fees
For employees who have worked for at least 3 months, employers have to pay for their medical consultation fees. In general, only government or company-approved doctors, dentists or specialists qualify, AND if employees are also certified to be on sick leave for at least one day.
Employers are not obligated to pay for medical consultations or paid sick leave if an employee visits a doctor on public holidays, annual leave, rest days or non-working days. There is also no obligation for employers to pay for medical consultations that does not result in a medical certificate (MC).
Providing Paid Time Off For Medical Appointments
While not an obligation, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) states that employers are encouraged to be flexible and supportive by providing paid time off for employees to visit a doctor for necessary medical appointments. Employees should inform their supervisors of such appointments as far in advance as possible for both parties to be accommodative.
What About Medical Benefits For Employees On Probation?
Whether an employee is on probation or not is irrelevant to the medical benefits they are entitled to. As long as an employee has worked for more than 3 months, he or she will be entitled to paid sick leave.
An employee’s probation period may be more relevant to medical benefits that a business provides above and beyond what the minimum requirements are.
Terminating An Employee On Medical Grounds
While it is not conducive to productivity and may have negative impacts in your company, sick leave is an entitlement covered on the Employment Act, and employers cannot simply choose to terminate employees for taking too many sick leave.
However, if a doctor certifies that an employee is unfit for work, employers can terminate the employee after giving notice or pay in lieu of notice.
Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA)
Local or foreign employees, under a contract of service, are also covered under WICA – Work Injury Compensation Act.
Employers are liable if your employees are injured or contract a disease as a result of work. This protects employees even if they are no longer working for you, their work pass is cancelled, the accident happened while on an overseas assignment or while on flexi-work arrangements.
MOM also provides some example scenarios of when a person is covered under WICA. They include meeting a traffic accident when travelling for work purposes (regardless of mode of transport), suffer medical conditions such as a heart attack or stroke due to work. There are also some examples scenarios that are not covered.
Besides medical leave wages and medical expenses (for up to one year or up to $45,000), employees are also entitled to lump sum compensation for permanent incapacity, current incapacity or death.
Employees can either choose to claim benefits under WICA or common law, but not both. They also have up to 1 year from the accident to decide whether to claim under WICA or common law.
Providing More Than The Bare Minimum Medical Benefits
Going beyond what’s required in the Employment Act, businesses can benefit from tax deductions or exemptions by implementing portable medical benefits for employees.
Employers can receive additional tax deductions for making additional MediSave contributions for their employees, who can use the payments to pay for their MediShield Life or Integrated Shield Plans. Employers can also pay for the premiums of the Shield Plan by contributing the amount to their employee’s MediSave Account.
Buying Group Insurance For Your Employees
Also not an obligation, employers can choose to cover their employees with group insurance. Such insurance can include out-patient costs, hospitalisation benefit, disability insurance and life insurance.
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