Monthly Archives: April 2017

Bus rams cars, motorbikes in Indonesia; 11 killed


JAKARTA: At least 11 people were killed Sunday (Apr 30) when a bus rammed into several other vehicles in Indonesia’s West Java province after a suspected brake failure, police said.

The bus hit four cars and motorbikes before tumbling down a slope. The bus driver and some of the motorists were among those killed.

The accident in Cianjur district, 90 kilometres (56 miles) south of Jakarta, also injured nearly 50 people.

Transport accidents are common in Indonesia, where buses and trains are often old and badly maintained.



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Honour sick leave system taking off among startups; not suitable for all companies say experts


SINGAPORE: Last week, Mohan Belani sent a company-wide announcement reminding his 30 employees that they do not have to produce a medical certificate (MC) from a doctor when they call in sick. “It’s a trust-based system,” he said.

“In most cases when people are sick, a large part is that they are either feeling burned out, or maybe they are tired from the previous day’s work. What they really need is some time off, a bit of rest and sometimes a quieter environment,” said the co-founder of startup E27, Southeast Asia’s largest tech platform.

The company has had an honour sick leave system, as it is commonly known, since it started with three people in 2007, and has no plans of doing away with it.

“The other thing I also feel is that most people don’t like to go to the doctor,” Mr Belani said. “And getting an MC means having to go to the doctor, spending some money and so on. A lot of people are fine self-medicating or resting it out, which is fine with us.”

At least four other startups with 30 or more employees told Channel NewsAsia that they also have an honour system for sick leave. ViSenze, which develops visual search and recognition tools using Artificial Intelligence, has 45 full-time employees. It said staff need not produce an MC each time when they are too unwell to work. 

Property portal 99.co’s CEO Darius Cheung said his employees also do not have to visit a doctor to get their sick leave certified. But the day does count towards their sick leave quota. E-commerce startup, ShopBack, which has over 90 employees in Singapore, said staff can take sick leave without producing an MC “as long as their absence is communicated to their direct leads”.

Tech platform company E27 is among the many startups that has implemented an honour sick leave system, according to its co-founder, Mohan Belani (right). (Photo: Monica Kotwani)

EMPLOYEES ENTITLED TO PAID SICK LEAVE WHEN MC IS PRODUCED
While an honour system appears to be gaining momentum among startups, the procedures for claiming sick leave set out under the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Employment Act are still widely practiced.

The MOM’s website states an employee covered under the act is entitled to paid sick leave if it has been certified by the “company’s doctor, a company-approved doctor or a government doctor”.

When news surfaced earlier this year of Singapore Airlines cabin crew voicing their unhappiness over the company’s medical leave system, the MOM issued a statement saying that employees should be excused from work if they have an MC as paid sick leave and hospitalisation leave is “a basic protection” under the Employment Act and a “core benefit in collective agreements”.

However, other countries adopt a different approach. For instance, in the UK, employees need to produce a “sick note” only after they have been off work for seven days. In fact, according to an official UK government website, doctors may charge a fee if an employee asks for an MC before the seventh day.

President of the Singapore Human Resources Institute Erman Tan said many companies do not feel the need to change what they feel has worked well for them. “They have their legacy, they have their existing system that people are comfortable with and that has worked well for their business model and where there is no need to change such a practice,” Mr Tan said.

Nonetheless, some organisations are testing the waters of a different approach. Singapore’s largest employer, the civil sector, implemented a system in 2013 which allows employees to call in sick for up to two days a year without certification from a doctor. 

Bosch Singapore’s Senior Manager for Human Resources Jane Tham told Channel NewsAsia that the electronics and engineering company would pilot the same system for a year, starting in January. The company, which has 920 employees in Singapore, said there are no plans to implement specific checks and balances, “as the system is based on trust and the integrity of our employees”.

She said employees currently take an average of three to four days of medical sick leave each year.

Meanwhile, Cartus, which provides corporate relocation services for its clients, told Channel NewsAsia staff can take sick leave without an MC for up to a day at a time. But as a way of preventing staff from abusing the system, an MC is required if they call in sick on Mondays or Fridays, before or after a public holiday and before or after approved leave.

Cartus Asia’s Senior Vice President and General Manager Kenneth Kwek told Channel NewsAsia the company has had this system in Singapore for 15 years and it is also used in its other Asia Pacific offices. The company has more than 200 employees in Singapore.

“For common medical ailments such as a headache or common cold, employees might already have some medication on hand and all they need is probably a good rest, so they do not need to see a doctor just to obtain a medical certificate for submission to the company,” Mr Kwek said.

He added that if an employee is suspected to be abusing the system, the manager has the right to withdraw this privilege. 

Advocates of the honour-sick leave system say sometimes employees need rest to recover and can self-medicate instead of seeing the doctor. (File Photo)

TRUST-BASED SICK LEAVE SYSTEM CAN WORK IN SINGAPORE: HR SPECIALIST

Experts say the fear of employees abusing the system seems to be a common concern that holds back local employers from exploring such options. Retired human resource specialist Amarjit Singh Wasan did some consultancy work for an SME with some 300 staff about four years ago.

He said one of the policies he encouraged senior management to take up was an honour system for sick leave. “Many of the things they followed but on the issue of leave, somehow they thought Singapore is different, that employees will abuse the system,” he said.

But Mr Wasan suggested such a system could work here. In 1998, when he was based in a nearby Southeast Asian country and working for an international organisation, an honour system was suggested. While he said he was initially skeptical, the programme was piloted for three years.

“The thinking was that maybe for certain very non-critical illnesses and simple illnesses like diarrhea, coughs and colds, headaches and other minor ailments, why not we do away with the necessity of having certified sick leave?”

Under the programme, staff could take up to three calendar days of sick leave without getting certification. But employees or their family members had to call up their supervisors beforehand. Mr Wasan said a report was also published every six months that detailed who had taken uncertified sick leave. He said supervisors also had the right to visit the employee at home, although this was hardly ever practiced.

“There was a little bump (in the amount of uncertified sick leave taken) initially for the first six months,” he said. “But within a year to a year and a half, it had corrected itself. In fact, further down the line, the actual sick leave record improved.”

Mr Wasan attributed those results to better accountability and higher morale among staff because the system showed them that the employer trusted them.

At the end of the pilot, the amount of sick leave being taken further declined. Other controls were added along the way, such as ensuring employees got certification if they had applied for annual leave and fell sick immediately before or after they went on leave.

“In any organisation, there will always be some percentage of employees that will abuse the system,” Mr Wasan said. “But for the overall good of everybody, we thought that this small percentage of abuse is too small for us to worry about.”

Mr Wasan said the savings to the organisation, as well as the benefits felt by the employees far outweighed “the small abuses” the company may have had.

DOES A CERTIFIED SICK LEAVE SYSTEM PREVENT ABUSE?

Advocates of an honour system like Mr Wasan and Mr Belani said even with the traditional system implemented by most companies, it’s not that difficult to get a day off from work by faking an illness to get an MC.

According to a survey conducted by online portal JobsCentral in 2012, almost 20 percent of some 3,300 Singapore employees admitted to faking an illness to get away from work.

Of this group, the survey said more than half took two days of “bogus sick leave” a year. All this despite the fact that about 78 per cent of the employers surveyed said they would check claims of being unwell. 

Former teacher Jane* told Channel NewsAsia she would, on average, take sick leave twice a term, even when she was not ill. “Sometimes between classes and attending meetings, I would not have enough time to mark papers or plan lessons,” she said.

“I would fake an MC to stay home and finish the work. Other times, I’d just be exhausted during crunch time as we just were not getting enough sleep.”

Jane said she would alternate between her family’s general practitioner and the polyclinic so it would not raise suspicion. She often gave symptoms that were difficult to verify – such as diarrhea, giddiness and stomach cramps. After a while, she started telling her GP the truth – that she was exhausted and needed a day off from work.

“I think she might have already suspected because it was always those few things, but she never said anything nor refused to give me an MC,” Jane said.

“I did feel guilty faking an MC, because it would mean that the students don’t get their class for that day and it would be hard to make-up that lesson, at least not properly. But I also feel that if I had gone in anyway, the lesson would have been so ineffective that the students were better off with a free period for them to do their own work.”

Jane said she knows of other colleagues who also faked an illness to get an MC.

Former teacher, *Jane, told Channel NewsAsia she would take sick-leave when she was behind in her marking or too exhausted after a busy period. (File Photo: AFP/Frederick Florin)

FAKING AN ILLNESS TO GET AN MC: CHANNEL NEWSASIA INVESTIGATES

A Google search on how to fake symptoms for an MC comes up with multiple online forums that share such tips. One Reddit user suggested giving the symptoms for a migraine, complete with nausea and “glittery vision”. Another suggested taking a long walk in the hot sun to get one’s temperature up before visiting the doctor. Some users at another forum discouraged members from visiting the polyclinic, as it was “more difficult” to get an MC.

To test this out, this reporter visited four GPs on a Friday – two in the East, one in central Singapore and one in the West. In each case, symptoms were described to the doctor that should have been verifiable with some physical evidence such as ear pain, a fever, a sore throat and a blocked nose. 

All four GPs conducted a thorough examination and diagnosed an inflamed sore throat while two also found a bit of a blocked nose. One prescribed antibiotics, while the rest provided cough and cold medication.

One of the three GPs who had not prescribed antibiotics told this reporter that “toughing it out” would work as it was a viral infection, and would be okay with a lot of rest. “So technically I did not need to come to you had I not needed an MC to give to work?” this reporter asked. “Yes, although the medications I have given you will probably make you feel better a bit sooner,” he said.

All four issued an MC, with one giving an MC for Friday and the Monday after. This experience supported what GPs approached for this article were willing to say on the record.

“I AM NOT A LIE DETECTOR”: DOCTORS SAY MC SYSTEM STILL WORKS BUT ABUSE NEEDS TO BE WEEDED OUT BY HR

The GPs that Channel NewsAsia spoke to said they would give their patients the benefit of the doubt when they see such cases where it is not certain how bad the problem is.

“Some patients may not have the symptoms that fit a typical medical condition,” said Dr Alvin Ang, who runs a clinic in Tampines.

“Some doctors might think the patient is malingering but another doctor who is cognisant of conditions like depression might probe further and discover that the patient is actually suffering from that condition…not many patients at the onset tell the doctor they are depressed, or even realise that they are actually suffering from it.”

Another GP that Channel NewsAsia spoke with said he suspects about five percent of his patients could be faking their illness to get away from work. He has at some point refused a patient an MC when the issue of malingering is clear-cut, but usually gives even suspected fakers the certificate. “The doctors’ role is to always safeguard the interest of the patient,” he said.

Dr Ang agreed, saying it’s not fair to patients if the doctor always has to be doubtful of someone’s motives and that HR managers should not expect doctors to function like lie detectors.

Instead, Dr Ang said HR departments should have a better system in place for dealing with suspected malingerers within their organisation.

As to whether an honour system might work better in Singapore, Dr Ang said the current system serves its purpose well. “Yes, in other countries they have this (honour) system,” he said.

“But that’s because access to GPs is limited in those countries. It might take patients a few days to be able to get an appointment to see their GP. In Singapore, every housing estate has more than a handful of neighbourhood clinics. It’s not difficult to access a GP, where most have a walk-in system”

Instead Dr Ang said what should change is employers’ attitudes. He said some employers insist on only recognizing and accepting MCs from polyclinics.

“Their perception is that polyclinic doctors are more stringent when issuing MCs. But the polyclinics are already jam-packed with not just with acute but chronic patients. Patients who can otherwise easily see any other GPs in their neighbourhood, should not end up contributing to the queue at polyclinics, which are meant to serve patients who need subsidised care.”

BEYOND HONOUR SYSTEM, HR SHOULD CUSTOMISE POLICIES TO BENEFIT EMPLOYEES

While claiming there are benefits to an honour system, proponents of this approach said it will not take-off in all organisations. Mr Cheung and Mr Belani said companies need to have a culture of high ethics and trust in employees for the system to work.

HR expert Mr Tan said it might not work in industries such as manufacturing and food and beverage, where one’s physical presence is required. “Where team work is required then there must be minimum discipline because you are talking about staff rotation, staff duty roster and at the same time, a back-up system,” he said.

He said HR departments, whether in large or small organisations, should relook at their business model and the culture they are trying to cultivate. The department could implement different MC policies within the same company.

For example, having an honour system for the research and development arm of a company might be useful as employees would need more flexible, creative and innovative systems to thrive, instead of being “stifled by bureaucracy”.

In the same company, the manufacturing arm could instead benefit from another system. “Not necessarily an honour system but instead of taking sick leave, they could perhaps take a day off based on individual needs. Perhaps if they don’t feel like working they can call in and say ‘I need to have a day off because I’m not ready to work’,” Mr Tan said.

Mr Tan said with the economic environment changing rapidly, HR departments need to see how their “talent” is changing, and ensure they have the right policies to motivate and retain them.



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Pakistan PM fires advisor over newspaper leak, army rejects actions


Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday sacked one of his special advisers and sanctioned another bureaucrat after an inquiry into a newspaper leak, but the country’s powerful army rejected Sharif’s directive as “incomplete”.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attends the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday sacked one of his special advisers and sanctioned another bureaucrat after an inquiry into a newspaper leak, but the country’s powerful army rejected Sharif’s directive as “incomplete”.

The report’s findings and recommendations threaten to reopen a rift between the army and the civilian government at a time when relations between the two have been relatively stable.

An article published in the English-language Dawn newspaper in October, detailing high-level security talks, had angered the army and led to the firing of then-Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, who was a Sharif ally.

The military’s tough response, which included asking intelligence agencies to identify the journalist’s sources, drew widespread criticism from rights groups who accused it of curtailing Pakistan’s press freedoms.

The prime minister’s office said Sharif had “approved the recommendations” from the report into the leak, which included the removal of Syed Tariq Fatemi, Sharif’s special assistant on foreign affairs, from his post.

Sharif’s office, in a statement, added Rao Tehsin Ali, principal information officer at the information ministry, will also be sanctioned on the basis of the report, which has not yet been published.

The Dawn newspaper, its editor Zafar Abbas and article author, Cyril Almeida, have been referred to the All Pakistan Newspaper Society for “necessary disciplinary action”.

But the army swiftly rejected Sharif’s directive.

“Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected.,” the military’s spokesman, Major General Asif Ghafoor, said on Twitter.

He did not elaborate on what other actions the government should take.

In October, the prime minister’s office said the story was “planted” and termed it a “breach of national security.”

The Dawn newspaper has stood by the author. Dawn journalists could not be reached for comment.

Quoting anonymous sources, the Dawn article said civilian government officials called for the military not to interfere if civilian authorities tried to arrest members of anti-India militant groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Westerns powers and India have criticised Pakistan over its links with home-grown Islamist militant groups which carry out attacks in neighbouring India, though Islamabad denies supporting them.

Relations between the civilian government and military have often been strained in a country where several prime ministers, including Sharif himself, have been ousted in coups.

The appointment of Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa as the country’s new military chief in November led to easing of tensions between Sharif’s government and the military.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Toby Chopra)



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STYLIST STYLIST FINISHED CHICKEN FEATHER WEIGHT KNIT RECYCLED NEW TERRESTRIAL WATERFOWL FEATHER



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ASEAN firms up South China Sea stance as Beijing lobbies over statement


Southeast Asian countries have altered a statement to be issued at Saturday’s ASEAN summit to include references to militarization and island-building in the South China Sea, the latest draft shows, in a move likely to frustrate Beijing.

An aerial view of China occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Francis Malasig/Pool

MANILA: Southeast Asian countries have altered a statement to be issued at Saturday’s ASEAN summit to include references to militarization and island-building in the South China Sea, the latest draft shows, in a move likely to frustrate Beijing.

Chinese embassy representatives in Manila had sought to influence the content of the communique by lobbying Philippine officials, two ASEAN diplomatic sources told Reuters.

However, four ASEAN member states disagreed with omitting “land reclamation and militarization” – terms included in the statement issued last year in Laos, but not included in an earlier draft of this year’s statement seen on Wednesday.

China is not a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations, and is not officially attending this week’s summit. China embassy officials in Manila could not be reached for comment.

ASEAN references to the South China Sea issue typically do not name China. Beijing is extremely sensitive to anything that can be deemed a veiled reference to its expansion of its seven manmade islands in the Spratly archipelago, including with hangers, runways, radars and missiles.

This year’s summit comes at a time of uncertainty about U.S. interests in the region and whether it will maintain a presence to counter China’s assertiveness.

The final version of the statement has yet to be agreed, but the changes so far indicate ASEAN is resisting moves by China to keep its contentious activities in the strategic waterway off ASEAN’s official agenda.

The latest draft suggests Beijing’s burgeoning friendship with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who chairs Saturday’s meetings, may not have been enough to influence Manila’s position either, the diplomats said.

TABOO TOPIC

Chinese officials were pressing for any phrase that could be interpreted as alluding to last year’s ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration to be kept out of the statement, the diplomats said, particularly the term “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes”.

The latest draft still includes that, although it was moved out of the South China Sea section to one under “ASEAN Community Vision”.

The Hague ruling, in a case brought by the Philippines in 2013, angered China because it invalidated the “nine dash line” it uses on its maps to denote its sovereignty claim over almost the entire South China Sea. China refuses to recognise the decision.

As part of his engagement with China, Duterte has said he will not press it to abide by the arbitration award anytime soon. On Thursday he said it was pointless for ASEAN to pressure China over its maritime activities.

The Philippines irked China two months ago when its then foreign minister, Perfecto Yasay, said he and ASEAN counterparts had noticed “very unsettlingly” that weapons systems had been installed, and considered that “a militarization of the region”.

ASEAN and China are hoping to this year agree on a framework to create a code of conduct over the South China Sea, 15 years after committing to draft it. Some ASEAN diplomats have expressed concerns about whether China is being sincere, or whether ASEAN has the enough leverage to get Beijing to commit to a set of rules.

In unusually direct comments for an ASEAN Secretary General, Le Luong Minh in an interview with Reuters on Thursday said the code needed to be legally binding to put a stop to “unilateral actions”, because a previous commitment to play fair had been ignored.

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Lincoln Feast)



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I'll be disappointed if Spurs miss out on title – Pochettino


Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino said he would be disappointed if his team failed to win the Premier League title this season, despite the four-point gap separating them from leaders Chelsea.

Britain Soccer Football – Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – Selhurst Park – 26/4/17 Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino Reuters / Dylan Martinez Livepic

REUTERS: Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino said he would be disappointed if his team failed to win the Premier League title this season, despite the four-point gap separating them from leaders Chelsea.

Spurs, who last won the league in 1961, stuttered in last season’s run-in to concede the title to surprise package Leicester City.

Pochettino believes his squad have since improved their ability to focus as they prepare to host Arsenal in Sunday’s North London derby.

“I will be very disappointed if we don’t win the title,” Pochettino told a news conference on Friday. “…My feeling is now, so close, only four points, but massive when only five games to play…

“I don’t remember last season too much – we’re focused on a completely different season and a new moment.”

White Hart Lane could be staging its final local derby this weekend as Spurs are hoping to move to a new 61,000-seat stadium in the 2018/19 season, after a year of playing at Wembley.

“For us it is important to try to be ready and prepare ourselves to try to play in the best way,” Pochettino added. “We know what the derby means, and for our fans, and maybe the last derby at White Hart Lane.”

Spurs are unbeaten at home in 17 league games season but have failed to claim a local derby victory since 2015.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by John Stonestreet)



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