Fake sick leave claims costing Malaysia US$319 mil. a year

By Lim Ai Lee PETALING JAYA The Star/ Asia News Network

Employers in Malaysia are incurring over US$319 million losses annually because of workers who feign illness to get sick leave, according to the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF). “Malingering or faking sickness to obtain medical certificates (MCs) has become a rampant practice in the country. The MCs rate in the country is now among the highest in the region,” said MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan. “Some employees will take MCs to go fishing, watch a movie, attend a wedding kenduri or send the kids to school. They will even ask their colleagues to tell their bosses they are on MC if they do not turn up for work the next day.” The MEF, which has just completed its survey on workplace productivity for 2010, is expected to release its report next week. Shamsuddin told Sunday Star that in Malaysia, about 4 percent of lost man-days or working days are attributed to MCs alone. While acknowledging there were genuine sick cases, he said the number of deceptive cases was high, with some malingerers exhausting the maximum 22 days sick leave allowed in a year. “Malingerers usually follow a pattern — they will take MCs just before or right after a weekend or public holiday. Companies are keeping a close watch on these employees and once there is sufficient proof of abuse, they will be dismissed,” Shamsuddin warned. Under the Employment Act 1955, an employee who has served at least five years with the same company is allowed up to 22 days sick leave annually which employers feel are “too high” and could give rise to abuse. The number of days do not include the 60 days entitlement for hospitalization. Malingerers, he added, were putting a financial strain on employers who had to pay 250 percent more for each man-day lost when a worker went on sick leave. Given the 4 percent loss due to MCs, a company with 1,000 workers stood to lose 9,120 man-days a year. Shamsuddin added that some companies which offered incentives for staff with good attendance found they were able to reduce the man-days loss due to MCs from 4 percent to 0.01 percent. However, the majority of employers did not see the point of offering such incentives as they were already paying their staff to work. MTUC president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud said they wanted to get a clearer picture from the MEF, adding that it was unfair for employers to claim that most workers on MCs were pretending to be sick. “This is tantamount to questioning the integrity of doctors who issued the MCs to the workers,” he added. He also disagreed with MEF’s call to the Government to reduce sick leave from the maximum 22 days, saying there were cases where employees were seriously ill or had met with accidents and needed time to recuperate before reporting back to work.