Case of man who refused Covid-19 test to earn extra $100 shows why workers need to be paid better: President

SINGAPORE – A man who flouted Covid-19 rules and refused a swab test so that he could continue to work was irresponsible in his actions, but this case highlights a common employment practice that can be detrimental to workers, President Halimah Yacob said on Tuesday (Jan 18).

Noting how the worker had been concerned about losing his $100 attendance allowance if he went on medical leave, she stressed that the key is to ensure that low-wage workers are paid better so that they are not dependent on such work incentives to survive.

Madam Halimah cited the case in a Facebook post.

The pest control technician had a cough for several weeks but refused to be swabbed at the polyclinic where he sought medical treatment.

This was because he was told that he would be placed on sick leave pending the outcome of the polymerase chain reaction test.

Madam Halimah noted how workers, particularly low-wage ones, may refuse to take sick leave even when they are unwell, to earn the extra attendance allowance.

She wrote: “$100 for someone who earns $1,500 a month with a family to feed is a lot of money that can be used to purchase necessities.”

Incentivising employees to work even when they are sick can be dangerous too for those operating machines as it could expose them and others to injury, she added.

“The real solution is to make sure that low-wage workers are paid better so that they don’t have to depend on such incentives to survive,” Madam Halimah said.

She explained that companies that pay such an attendance allowance are hoping to deter abuse of sick leave, not penalise those who are genuinely ill.

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In the current pandemic, it is not fair to deprive workers of the attendance allowance when they go on medical leave for testing positive for Covid-19 or are waiting for their test results.

“Employers should make this clear to workers,” Madam Halimah said.


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