Medical Leave In Singapore: 4 Crucial Insights

by | Dec 1, 2023 | Blog

In Singapore’s dynamic work environment, employee well-being remains a focal point of employment practices. An essential component of this is the provision of medical leave, ensuring that employees can recover from illnesses without the financial worries of unpaid days off.

This article delves deep into the nuances of medical leave in Singapore, and what you should expect with your rights as an employee.


1. What Is A Medical Leave?

The backbone of employment practices in Singapore, the Employment Act, offers clear stipulations concerning medical leave. Under this Act, employees are entitled to paid outpatient sick leave and paid hospitalisation leave, depending on specific conditions.

While both types fall under the umbrella term “medical leave,” they cater to different scenarios:

Paid Outpatient Sick Leave

This caters to scenarios where an employee is unwell but is not hospitalised. It covers visits to general practitioners and outpatient treatments.

Paid Hospitalisation Leave

As the name suggests, this pertains to instances where an employee is admitted to a hospital for treatment. It’s essential to note that the days of hospitalisation leave include those under outpatient sick leave.

However, not all medical leave is paid. The distinction between paid and unpaid medical leave depends on factors like eligibility, the duration of employment, and adherence to the notification and certification requirements of the Employment Act.

2. Eligibility For Medical Leave

For an employee to be entitled to paid sick leave, several conditions and criteria must be met:

  1. Duration of Service: An employee must have served the employer for a minimum period. Typically, this duration is three months for those under a continuous contract. This ensures that employees in probationary periods are also covered, albeit with potential variations in sick leave entitlement based on the employment contract.
  2. Medical Certification: An essential aspect of claiming medical leave is the provision of a medical certificate. But not all certificates are accepted. Only those issued by a government doctor, a company’s doctor, or a doctor from an accredited institution or clinic are recognised.
  3. Notification: To be eligible for paid sick leave, an employee must inform or attempt to inform the employer within 48 hours of the commencement of the leave. This can be done directly or through another person, especially if the employee is incapacitated.

Requirements For Outpatient And Hospitalisation Leave

Employees are entitled to paid outpatient sick leave and hospitalisation leave. If an employee is certified unfit to work by a doctor, they can avail paid sick leave. This certification can come from a company’s doctor or a government doctor.

As for hospitalisation leave, it’s not limited to just cases where an employee is wounded. If a doctor issues a certificate for extended medical leave that accounts for recovery, it is considered underpaid hospitalisation leave.

How Employment Duration Affects Medical Leave Entitlement

An employee’s time in service affects their sick leave entitlement. If an employee has been in service for three months, they are entitled to paid sick leave. The longer the duration of service, the more days of paid hospitalisation leave they can avail, with a maximum limit usually set at 60 days.

Accumulation And Carry-Over Of Unused Medical Leave

Unlike annual leave, unused medical leave, both outpatient and hospitalisation, does not carry over to the next year. It’s structured this way to ensure employees don’t misuse the system by accumulating sick leaves.

3. Rights And Responsibilities Relating To Medical Leave

Understanding the rights and responsibilities tied to medical leave ensures a smooth process for both parties involved.

Employer’s Responsibilities

Employers play a vital role to provide medical benefits and the leave process. They are obligated to acknowledge and honour the medical leave taken by an employee.

The Employment Act is clear that during such leaves while an employee is seeking medical treatment, there should be a non-deduction of salary, ensuring that employees are not financially penalised for being ill.

Employee’s Responsibilities

While entitled to paid sick leave, employees must also adhere to certain protocols. They should notify their employer promptly about their condition and the need for medical leave. Subsequently, they must submit their medical certificates, verifying the need for the leave.

Enhanced Medical Leave Benefits

While the Employment Act ensures a minimum standard, many progressive companies offer enhanced medical leave benefits. This can manifest as an extension of the paid sick leave, covering conditions not typically included in paid outpatient sick leave or even merging the annual leave with the paid hospitalisation leave to provide flexibility.

For instance, they might offer a consolidated leave pool instead of strictly adhering to the differentiation between outpatient and hospitalisation leave.


4. Common Disputes Related To Medical Leave

Disputes might stem from various sources – misunderstandings regarding the amount of paid outpatient sick leave, disagreements about the validity of medical certificates, or even discrepancies between company policy and the Employment Act.

Some employers might erroneously count hospitalisation leave separately from annual leave or might not be fully aware of the minimum sick leave entitlement.

Mediation And Legal Recourse

For cases where internal resolution is challenging, mediation becomes a viable tool. Mediators, well-versed in the Employment Act, help bridge understanding and arrive at a fair resolution. Legal recourse is available if matters escalate, ensuring that the rights of both the employer and employee are protected.

The Role Of The Tripartite Alliance For Fair And Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP)

TAFEP plays an instrumental role in advocating best employment practices. With guidelines and principles emphasising fairness, it allows companies to navigate the complex realm of employment benefits, including ensuring employees are entitled to paid sick leave per statutory requirements.

Conclusion On Medical Leave In Singapore

Understanding one’s medical leave rights and responsibilities is a legal necessity and a cornerstone for fostering a supportive work environment.

Companies that uphold these rights and even enhance them witness the ripple effect regarding employee productivity, morale, and loyalty. A well-structured and respected medical leave system indicates a workplace that values its employees’ well-being.

Should any ambiguities arise, or if there’s a need for a deeper dive into the nuances of Singapore’s employment law, engaging with a trusted legal partner like The Singapore Lawyer can provide clarity, ensuring you’re always on the right path.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with us today!


Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Leave In Singapore

Can I Take A Medical Leave If I Have A Miscarriage?

Yes, under Singapore’s employment law, employees are entitled to take medical leave for a miscarriage, but are not eligible for a maternity leave. The duration of leave may vary depending on the specific circumstances and the employer’s policies, but it is generally considered an acceptable reason for medical leave.

Is A Medical Certificate From Any Doctor Accepted For Medical Leave In Singapore?

Yes. Typically, medical certificates for sick leave should be issued by a government doctor, a company-approved doctor, or a doctor from a government-accredited hospital or medical institution.

Do Medical Leave Days Count Towards The Weekend?

If an employee’s medical leave spans a weekend (or rest day), and they do not work on weekends, then the weekend does not count against their paid sick leave entitlement.

Can An Employer Fire An Employee For Taking Too Much Medical Leave?

While the Employment Act protects employees’ rights to medical leave, consistently extended absences could be addressed by employers, provided they adhere to the Act’s guidelines and do so fairly.

How Does Unpaid Medical Leave Work?

Unpaid medical leave is leave taken after an employee has exhausted their paid sick leave entitlement. During this period, the employee won’t receive their salary.

Are Part-Time Or Probationary Employees Entitled To Paid Medical Leave?

Yes, part-time and probationary employees are entitled to paid sick leave, but the entitlement might be prorated based on their contract and hours worked.

Is There A Cap On The Number Of Days For Paid Hospitalisation Leave?

Yes, under the Employment Act, an employee is generally entitled to 60 days of paid hospitalisation leave, inclusive of the 14 days of paid outpatient sick leave.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.