There have been occasional media reports over the years, of doctors selling Medical certificates. The MMA definitely censures and condemns such practices but there is more to it than meets the eye. It is simplistic to say that MCs can be purchased. This may not necessarily be true or rampant. MMA regularly advises doctors should not be 'easy' in giving medical certificates. The MMA does not condone such unethical indulgence.

Doctors are part of the service industry and 'to please your customer' is the most important motto in the service industry.

Some doctors issue MCs out of compassion. But this is wrong too. At times the doctor err on the side of caution to issue an MC. However MCs should only be issued when the patient is sick and unfit to perform his duties.

But a rare one does indeed indulge in such a practice of 'selling MCs' as reported in the media. This besmears the noble profession. The MMA does not tolerate such unethical practice and will certainly assist the MMC and the Ministry of Health in weeding out such professionals.

In 2012, employers have stated that the cost of absenteeism was about RM100,000 per day and the additional costs of replacing absent workers and the total lost due to sick leave stands at RM9 billion or 1 percent of the Malaysia's GDP of RM850 billion. That's a huge cost on the economy. In 2013, it was to RM8.22 billion, a significant sum. But the figures may not be reflective of the actual loss claimed.

Labour laws provide that an employee is eligible for 22 days of sick leave annually. The 2013 figures given by the Malaysian Employers Federation says the average Malaysian takes less than 10 days leave, which is less than 50 percent of what he is eligible for. Thus the figures of financial loss quoted may not portray the actual situation .The figures certainly indicate that Malaysians are actually hardworking and not MC seekers.

Employers would have to spend more than double the figures and lost more, if Malaysians had taken all their sick leave entitlement. This is not actual loss as they should have made provision financially for these sick leaves as Malaysian Labour law provides for it

Employers must understand that the Medical Certificate is just a recommendation from the doctor that the employee be allowed sick leave and it is for the employer to accept or reject the Medical certificate. They should question the MC, and refuse to accept it, if they genuinely belief that the MC is unwarranted. Instead many employers arm twist their panel doctors not to issue MCs even when warranted

Employers should be looking within the working environment and improve working conditions. A good working environment with a caring employer providing job satisfaction and happiness with a reasonable salary along with adequate intensives and promotions, will certainly curtail employees from 'feigning' illnesses to obtain MCs or obtaining MCs for other reasons.

Those employees not taking MCs should be rewarded and probably considered for promotion. Instead the sick leave not taken is 'burnt' and the employee feels frustrated that it is a wasted exercise for being hardworking throughout the year. Employees thus resort to 'ingenious' ways to fool doctors and obtain MCs.

Loyalty will be prime importance to the employee if he is looked after well. Many employers seem to be missing this point and thus lose out on the long run.

A happy workforce is of prime importance to the employer. Extra money spent on keeping the workforce happy and contented will certainly be recouped easily when productivity is increased. This will prevent absenteeism at the workplace.

It will certainly curtail the innovative and ingenious methods that employees use to obtain MCs to 'escape' pressures from work. The increase in employee benefits will certainly be only a fraction of almost the RM 10 billion lost due to absenteeism. If just 10 percent of this is paid in wages or allowances, it will see a drastic drop in those seeking MCs.

Imposing stiff working conditions, lack of time with family or opportunities to interact with family and friends will certainly force 'employees' to seek ways to absent themselves from work. A happy workforce will keep a loyal work force.

**The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.