Medical leave is a commonly used benefit that allows employees to take time off work for their health. One frequently asked question is whether taking medical leave is mandatory under employment law. This is a crucial issue that has significant implications for the health and productivity of employees, as well as the success of businesses. 

Related read: Employment Law Basics

1. Is taking an MC a mandatory requirement under employment law?

Yes, if you are an employee governed by the Employment Act 1955 (“EA”). It is necessary for the employee to submit an MC as proof in order to be entitled to sick leave as stipulated under Section 60F of the EA.

Whereas if you are a non-EA employee, your entitlement to sick leave is subject to the terms of your employment contract. An employee is expected to report for work at hours stipulated in their contract. He/she must have a reasonable excuse to explain their absence from work, failing which, such absence will be regarded as an absence without leave which is misconduct that may lead to disciplinary action
including dismissal. In view of this, if an employee is taking sick leave, it is necessary for him/her to submit an MC as proof for him/her to be entitled to sick leave.

2. What if an employee is extremely sick and is not able to get an MC on time?

It is advisable for an employee to call the Company HR to inform them that he/she is unwell and will be taking a leave of absence for the day. This will allow the Company to make necessary arrangements to prevent any interruption of work. In the event the employee is unable to get an MC on time, then he/she could apply for the sick leave to be converted into an emergency leave instead.

3. Can an employer refuse the MC?

Generally, an employer would not refuse a valid MC unless they have reasons to doubt the authenticity and/or genuineness of the MC. However, an employer is entitled to investigate and/or seek information on the MC furnished by the employee with the
clinic that issued it. In the event it is discovered that there are any issues with the MC, the employer would be entitled to refuse it.

4. Are there any rules on the distance of the clinic from the employee’s home?

It is not set in stone but logically speaking, an unwell employee should visit the nearest clinic from the employee’s home. This is because when an MC is issued to the employee, it is assumed that the employee is sick and unfit to work. So, it is expected that if someone is unfit to work, then they would be unfit to travel.

5. Any general advice for employers/employees in this regard based on your experience?

For employees, as a matter of prudence, you should first notify HR that you are unwell followed by a text/Whatsapp/email to HR confirming the conversation on the same
day. It is advisable for employers to practice some flexibility in dealing with an application for a leave of absence due to the sickness of an employee. This is because there may be a
situation when a sick employee is genuinely unable to obtain an MC on time. The employer may want to consider converting the sick leave into an emergency leave and/or unpaid leave in accordance with the Company’s rules and policies in place.

The authors of the publication are Angeline Tay Lee Yin and Venisa Doraisingam of Messrs Bodipalar Ponnudurai De Silva.
The publication is intended for purposes of general information and academic discussion only. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any fact or circumstances.

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