Medical Benefits That Businesses Have To Legally Provide For Their Employees In Singapore

Businesses have a responsibility for their workers’ health and well-being. A first layer comes through an employee’s salary. Businesses provide an Employer’s CPF contribution of up to 17% of their employees’ salaries (in addition to the up to 20% Employee CPF contributions that employees themselves have to make). A chunk of this goes towards healthcare and medical security in an employee’s MediSave Account (MA).

On top of this, providing adequate medical benefits and entitlements is also part of Singapore’s Employment Act governing companies’ obligations to their employees.

Read Also: Complete Guide To Employer’s CPF Contributions In Singapore

Employers Are Required To Provide Medical Benefits And Entitlements To Employees

#1 Sick Leave And Hospitalisation Leave

Singapore’s Employment Act states 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.

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). The chart below shows that employees who have worked for less than 6 months, still get sick leave and hospitalisation leave, at a lower level.

Length Of ServiceSick LeaveHospitalisation Leave
(Inclusive Of Sick Leave)
3 months to 4 months515
4 months to 5 months830
5 months to 6 months1145
6 months and more1460

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.

Similarly, employees on sick leave certified by a medical practitioner who is not appointed by the employer, will be deemed absent without permission or reasonable excuse if they do not inform or attempt to inform their 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. This can also be a reminder for employers to exercise some compassion in trying to locate their absent employees as they may be seriously unwell.

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 was definitely relevant during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, as people were served with quarantine orders or stay-home notices (SHN). Employers are required to treat such employees as if they are on paid hospitalisation leave.

#3 “Stay-Home Leave” 

The Employment Act also states that an employee can rest at home and will be considered as 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 do not result in a medical certificate (MC).

Instances When Employers Do Not Need To Provide Medical Benefits

There are also certain instances where employers do not need to provide medical benefits as a legal requirement.

These include:

  • paying for the cost of medicine
  • for employees who have not worked for at least three months at the business
  • for medical consultations that do not result in an MC and at least one paid sick leave
  • for medical consultation fees or paid sick leave for cosmetic procedures
  • for medical consultation fees or paid sick leave for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Treatment

Of course, employers may provide any medical benefits as an added perk.

Providing Paid Time Off For Medical Appointments

While not an obligation, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) encourages employers 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 on top of the minimum requirements.

Read Also: Guide To Probation Period For Employees In Singapore (And What Employment Rights They Have)

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 under the Employment Act, and employers cannot simply choose to terminate employees for taking too many sick leaves.

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.

Employers Cannot Tie Incentive Schemes To Statutory Sick Leave Utilisation

From 1 January 2023, companies with incentive schemes that are tied to statutory sick leave utilisation will face enforcement action.

This was something that came into the public attention during the pandemic in 2020, when certain groups of employees did not seek medical consultation or take an MC when they had COVID-19, because they wanted to retain their incentives.

Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA)

Both Local and 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), suffering medical conditions such as a heart attack or stroke due to work.

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.

Employers may purchase Work Injury Compensation (WIC) insurance policies for your employees. It is mandatory to buy WIC insurance for employees that:

  • are doing manual work, regardless of salary level
  • are doing non-manual work, and earning $2,600 and below (excluding overtime payment, bonus payment, annual wage supplement, productivity incentive payment and any allowance)

Read Also: Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA): What Employers Need To Know

Buying Primary Care Plan (PCP) For Your Foreign Employees

From 1 April 2022, it is mandatory for employers to purchase a Primary Care Plan (PCP), covering outpatient medical treatment, for workers who are S Pass and Worker Permit holders who are:

  • staying in dormitories
  • working in the Construction, Marine and Process (CMP) sectors

Employers can buy the PCP from one of four Anchor Operators, running medical centres within various geographical sectors in Singapore. The fees range from $108 to $138 for each employee. Employees have to pay $2 for each tele-consultation or $5 for a physical consultation.

Even though it is optional, MOM “strongly encourages” employers to purchase a PCP plan for their S Pass and Work Permit holders who are not staying in dormitories or working in the CMP sectors.

Read Also: What Employers Need To Know About The Mandatory Primary Care Plan (PCP) For Foreign Workers

Providing More Than The Bare Minimum Medical Benefits

Going beyond what’s required in the Employment Act or mandatory, businesses can benefit from tax deductions or exemptions by implementing portable medical benefits for employees.

Employers can also 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.

Read Also: Does It Make Financial Sense For Employers To Make Additional MediSave Contributions For Employees?

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.

Read Also: Guide To Understanding Group Health Insurance Plans In Singapore

This article was first published on 20 November 2020 and has been updated with additional information from statistics released by the Ministry of Law.

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