Sick Leave Entitlements for Employees in Singapore

Last updated on February 13, 2023

sick woman calling on phone

Employees who have served an employer in Singapore for a period of time are generally entitled to sick leave or medical leave (colloquially known as “MC” in Singapore). This article will help you know your rights and obligations as an employee when taking sick leave in Singapore. It will cover:

What is Sick Leave?

An employee may be entitled to paid sick leave after examination by a medical practitioner and certification by that medical practitioner that the employee is unfit to work. This allows you to rest and recover before returning to work. The number of paid sick leave days that you are entitled to depends on the number of months of service completed.

Sick leave entitlements are governed by the Employment Act (EA) which is Singapore’s main labour law. It provides for the basic terms and conditions at work for employees covered by the EA. The main purpose of the EA is to safeguard employees’ working conditions and maintain good employment standards.

What types of employees are covered by the Employment Act?

The EA generally covers an employee working under a contract of service with an employer and includes full-time, part-time, temporary and contract employees. The employee will be covered regardless of whether the employee is paid on an hourly, daily, monthly or piece-rated basis. 

The EA does not make a distinction between local or foreign employees. Thus, all Singapore citizens, permanent residents and non-citizens who work in Singapore will be covered by the EA. However, certain employees are excluded under the EA. 

If an employee works less than 35 hours a week, they are a part-time employee covered by the Employment of Part-Time Employees Regulations. Self-employed persons, seafarers, domestic workers and statutory board employees are not covered by the EA. Instead, their employment terms will be set out in their employment contract. 

Who is Eligible For Sick Leave in Singapore?

To be eligible for sick leave, all of the following criteria have to be met:

  • You are covered under the Employment Act
  • You have served your employer for at least 3 months
  • You have informed or tried to inform your employer within 48 hours of your absence

To qualify for paid sick leave, you must be certified to be unfit for work by a medical practitioner registered under the Medical Registration Act or Dental Registration Act. If you visited a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (TCMP), your employer may not recognise the medical certificates issued by TCMPs for the purpose of granting paid sick leave.

Employers are not required to grant paid sick leave or pay medical consultation fees for cosmetic procedures. If you are unsure of whether a procedure is cosmetic or not, you may consult the medical practitioner performing the medical examination who will determine the purpose of the procedure. Even if it is a cosmetic procedure, your company may cover this under the company’s internal policy.

However, an employee is not eligible to apply for paid sick leave if they fall sick during:

  • Rest days: Employees have dedicated days of no work within a week. Your employer may prepare a monthly roster to inform you of the rest days before the start of each month
  • Public holidays: An employee under the EA is entitled to 11 gazetted public holidays in a year (e.g., New Year, Hari Raya, Christmas)
  • Non-working days: For an employee with a 5-day work week, weekends are typically considered non-working days
  • Annual leave: Paid days of leave that an employee is entitled to within a year
  • Unpaid leave: Days of leave that an employee takes without being paid a salary for the duration of the leave

What are Your Sick Leave Entitlements? 

Generally, the number of sick leave that you are entitled to is in accordance with the period of service with your employer. This is to ensure that the responsibilities placed on the employer are proportional to the length of service of the employee.

The period of service and the corresponding number of sick leave is illustrated in the table below:

Number of months of service completed  Paid outpatient sick leave (days)
5
4 8
5 11
6 and thereafter 14

If you have served your employer for less than 3 months, you are not entitled to paid sick leave under the EA. However, some employers may provide medical benefits that exceed those stated in the EA. You should check your employment contract and/or handbook on these specific benefits.

Furthermore, even if you are on probation, you will still be entitled to paid sick leave as long as you fall within the EA and your period of service is at least 3 months.

What If You Run Out of Sick Leave? 

Generally, if you have utilised all your sick leave entitlements and run out of sick leave, but are still feeling unwell or have a medical condition and require an extended period of rest, you may consider the following options:

  • Request to go on extended no-pay leave for an agreed period with your employer
  • Make other working arrangements that are acceptable to you and your employer, e.g., reallocation of responsibilities and reducing workload, working from home
  • Obtain a medical assessment to see if you are suitable to continue with your current job scope and if any adjustments or accommodations can be made

Can Your Employer Terminate You If You have Taken an Extended Amount of Sick Leave? 

Generally, termination of employment should only be used as a last resort.

However, employers may deem an employee to be too ill and unfit for the job, especially in situations where an extended amount of sick leave taken has adversely affected the company’s operations. For example, a nurse who has been diagnosed with a medical condition that renders him/her unable to walk for long hours or come in contact with other patients, and has to repeatedly take sick leave owing to the condition.

In such situations, the employer may terminate the employee’s employment after giving due notice or payment in lieu of notice.

What can you do if you feel that your dismissal was wrongful?

If you are an employee covered by the EA and feel that you have been terminated unfairly, you may appeal in writing to the Ministry of Manpower. Alternatively, you can file a wrongful dismissal claim with Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM). The claim to TADM has to be filed within 1 month from the last day of employment along with proof that your dismissal was wrongful. 

If your wrongful dismissal claim cannot be resolved at TADM, it will be referred to the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT). In the event that the ECT judges find the dismissal wrongful, your employer may be ordered to reinstate you to your former job and pay you any income loss due to the wrongful dismissal or pay you a sum of money as compensation. 

Note that managers and executives who are dismissed with notice or salary in lieu of notice can only file a wrongful dismissal claim if they have served their employer for at least 6 months.

As an employee who has served your employer for a period of time and is covered by the EA, you are entitled to paid sick leave.

You may consult an employment lawyer for advice on your employment rights and determining your sick leave entitlements. If you are an employer, you can also seek advice on the obligations that you owe your employees in terms of their sick leave entitlements.

Employees who need scenario-based advice on the application of the EA or other employment laws may seek guidance from the TADM for all employment disputes. Local low-wage workers may contact NTUC U Care Centre while NTUC union members may contact NTUC U PME Centre. 

To recap, sick leave is an entitlement. Do seek advice if the need to file a claim arises.

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