Muscat: New measures by the Ministry of Health could soon put an end to the practice of fake sick leaves being taken by workers, following complaints of employees misusing the system with the help of private medical institutions.
A reliable source at the ministry said that it was in the process of framing stricter regulations for issuing sick leave certificates after complaints by human resources (HR) managers from various organisations in Oman.
Welcoming the move, a specialist at Atlas Hospital Ruwi, said that the Ministry of Health has been forced to issue stricter regulations as a large number of people have been found misusing the sick leave facility.
Employees working in the private and public sectors often misuse the sick leave system by feigning illness to take a day off, according to HR managers. Sick leave is officially granted to employees in case of sudden illness, which, however, must be proved by producing a medical certificate.
An HR manager with an organisation in the Sultanate told Times of Oman that a large number of employees who took sick leave approached private health centres and hospitals to provide them with a medical certificate.
"Fake sick leaves have become a huge concern, as a large number of employees often resort to unfair means to fully utilise the 30 per cent absent limit provided as per regulations," said the HR manager.
He added that fake medical certificates had become a "safe haven" for employees who often resorted to unfair means to take the day off from work. His company had recently come across one case where a female employee took sick leave to accompany her husband on a long sabbatical, adding that there were also cases of employees from neighbouring countries seeking long medical leaves.
"90 per cent of all sick leaves granted are false and are not due to genuine medical problems. But one can hardly do anything if the sick leave certificates are issued by authorised hospitals or health centres," said the HR manager.
The HR manager added that the issue has been brought to the notice of the ministry twice to stop health centres from issuing fake medical certificates, except in case of emergencies.
Several organisations were suffering due to such unfair practices by their employees. An employee's absence from work for a long time affects an organisation's productivity and in jobs like teaching, the absence of teachers can badly affect the students.
According to a doctor working at a government hospital, every employee had the right to take sick leave in case of medical emergency, but employees were misusing the system and making it very difficult for the HR managers to deal with the problem.
Need to control misuse of sick leave facility
The doctor also emphasised the need for the Ministry to control the system from being misused.
Aisha, who works with the government sector, confessed to Times of Oman that she often abused the system. Being posted far away from her family, she claimed she had no choice but to use sick leave for taking breaks.
"I use fake sick leaves to go home every week because the Ministry has posted me far away from my home. I get one day of extra leave due to the sick leave, which I avail mostly on Wednesdays to go home and spend some time with my family," she said.
There were hundreds of such cases across Oman, said HR managers.
Experts say that employees need to take time off from work in case of illness, but they must be made to comply with their organisation's HR policy, and proper verification should be carried out to curb those who were misusing the system by taking sick leaves.
Welcoming the move, Dr V.C.P. Mohammed, specialist Internal Medicine at Atlas Hospital Ruwi, said that the Ministry of Health (MoH) has been forced to issue stricter regulations after they found that a large number of people misusing the sick leave. "We are now double checking with our patients before issuing any sick certificates," he said.
As necessary precautions, Atlas Hospital is keeping a record of all sick leave certificates issued by them. "And on monthly basis we are forwarding them to the MoH," he said.
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