Singapore Airlines staff claim the genuinely ill are penalised by incentive scheme

Author: PM editorial | Date: 15 Feb 2017

Rewarding great attendance isn’t straightforward if sick employees feel they are being punished

Singapore Airlines (SIA) highlighted the difficulty for HR professionals of rewarding exemplary attendance at work, when some of its cabin crew complained that the company’s incentive system discouraged genuinely sick staff from taking time off.
The points-based system penalises those who take sick days, they said; each crew member starts with 10 points and one is taken off every time they submit a medical certificate for common problems such as colds.
In theory, this is supposed to act as a reward system for those with exemplary attendance. Turn up to work every day without fail and you’ll still have 10 points at the end of the year, which will be taken into consideration during your annual performance appraisal.
However, in reality, staff may drag themselves into work when seriously ill because they don’t want to lose any points. Not only are they likely to make themselves sicker but potentially make their colleagues sick too.
A statement by SIA - seen by the Straits Times - sought to reassure staff that they would not be looked on unfavourably for promotions for falling sick occasionally. To follow such a policy meant “we would inevitably be depriving ourselves of good people moving up to assume leadership positions,” said the statement.
SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides said: "As with all other businesses, employee productivity and attendance at work are important for a successful airline operation. Although crew attendance is a component in the performance management process, we would like to emphasise that crew performance is measured across many other factors."
In Singapore, permanent employees are entitled to up to 14 days of unpaid sick leave (or 60 days if hospitalisation is required). According to MOM statistics, the proportion of workers who have taken sick leave during the year has risen from 54.6 per cent in 2009 to 60 per cent in 2015. The average number of sick leave days taken is 4.9 each year.