The Ministry of Manpower (MOM)said it expects all employers to excuse their employees from work if they are on sick or hospitalisation leave, in accordance with doctors' instructions.
This was in response to a report by The New Paper on Saturday over the way Singapore Airlines (SIA) views employees who use their medical certificates (MCs).
Last week, SIA stewardess Vanessa Yeap, 38, was found dead in a San Francisco hotel room. She was reportedly ill two days before the incident.
A Facebook user, Mr Philip Lim, then claimed SIA crew would avoid taking sick leave as it would affect their chances of a promotion. He also claimed SIA rewards its flight crew if they maintain an MC-free year. The airlines refuted his claims.
TNP quoted two SIA stewardesses who agreed with Mr Lim's post and felt the company's MC practice should be reviewed. They said cabin crew members were afraid to take medical leave as it might affect their promotion and contract renewal.
Following the report, 10 readers, most of whom claimed in their e-mails to be current or former SIA employees, contacted TNP. Some agreed with Mr Lim's comments while others shared unpleasant experiences taking MCs while with SIA.
In response, MOM yesterday issued a statement saying it expects all employers to excuse their employees from work if they have an MC.
Its spokesman said this would allow employees who are ill to obtain medical care and recover and can prevent further transmission of contagious illnesses at the workplace.
The spokesman added: "Paid sick and hospitalisation leave is a basic protection under the Employment Act and is also a core benefit in collective agreements... employers should avoid penalising an employee solely based on his consumption of sick leave."
The ministry added that employers should appraise their employees fairly by taking into consideration "ability, performance and contributions".
The ministry urged employers to clearly communicate their employment terms to employees to avoid misunderstanding.
Employees who feel penalised for taking sick leave can approach the ministry for help.
Under the law, employees with six or more months of service get a minimum of 14 and 60 days of paid sick and hospitalisation leave, respectively.
When contacted to respond to MOM's statement, SIA replied with the same statement it had sent to TNP on Friday.
The spokesman said: "Crew members who are given medical leave are encouraged to rest and recuperate at home. Operating with an MC is a disciplinary lapse...
"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."