Employee fired after taking leave to care for terminally ill father

He missed his father’s death after his manager held him back at work

Employee fired after taking leave to care for terminally ill father

An employee in Singapore missed his father’s death after his manager delayed releasing him from work.

A week after the death, Syed Ahmad was fired after the manager reported to HR that he had taken many days of “unapproved” leave.

Syed Ahmad made a report to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in May 2020, where he was referred to TAFEP.

A spokesperson from TAFEP told local media that they were aware of the case and had engaged the company earlier this year.

“The employer acknowledged that they should have handled the matter more sensitively and empathetically,” the spokesperson told Mothership. “Especially in this situation which involved the impending loss of a loved one.”

TAFEP said that the employer had reached out to Syed Ahmad to apologise in person in August this year.

Read more: Tech giant offer new global benefit for family caregivers

Refused an ‘early release’ from work
In a Facebook post seen by HRD, the ex-employee of a company “located in the CBD area” shared a timeline of events of his unfortunate experience.

Syed Ahmad was at work covering for his colleague when a doctor called him around 9.40am, informing him that his terminally ill father “appeared unresponsive”. The doctor urged him to head down to the hospital “immediately to visit and have my final words and prayers” to his father.

He relayed the message to his operations manager but was told he can only be released from work at 4pm.

After some desperate negotiations, his manager agreed to compromise but did not let him off work at that instant. He insisted that Ahmad “remain for another one hour over the excuse that he needed me to help him clear his backlog”.

An hour later the doctor phoned again and said that his father had to be placed on life support. Ahmad once again pleaded to the manager but was refused the early release from work.

At 11.30am, Ahmad tried to reason with the manager once more, and was finally let off work. Unfortunately, while he was still en route to the hospital, the doctor called to inform him that his father had passed away.

Read more: Why HR should build a culture of empathy

Fired after HR complaint
A week after his father's death, Syed Ahmad said he was terminated by the company allegedly after the operation manager filed a complaint to HR that he had taken many days of “unapproved” leave.

Being the sole caregiver, he said the leaves were taken to care for his father for two weeks, leading up to the time he was hospitalised.

He added that he had submitted letters from medical specialists, to both HR and his manager, to justify his absence from work.

In the post, Syed Ahmad said he was “completely fine” with HR’s decision to fire him as he had been “longing” to leave the company for the past five years due to office politics.

He added that the company could have just terminated him while he was caring for his father, as it would have eased the situation on both sides.

He “sincerely accept” the termination but said that he could never forgive his manager who prevented him from being by his father’s side on his deathbed and fulfilling his final wishes.

Read more: Emergency leave benefit in Singapore: A guide

Have a ‘progressive’ emergency leave policy
In this scenario, open communication and understanding is key to maintain the employer-employee relationship.

What’s more, having a formal policy to help support employees’ caregiving responsibilities are “progressive” and encouraged, according to TAFEP.

Caregiving refers to attending the needs of immediate family members, for example if there’s a medical emergency. TAFEP has stated guidelines for this, instead of MOM.

“While employees are encouraged to use their annual leave first, you can provide additional unpaid leave to support them during such stressful periods,” said TAFEP.

Some guidelines include:

- Offering up to two weeks of unpaid leave per year for the caring of immediate family members who are hospitalised, during or after hospitalisation.

- Allowing employees to request for more leave if they require.

- Including the documentation of leave requests and responses.

- Notifying employees on the outcomes of leave requests in a timely manner.

“If a request cannot be granted, you should engage employees on the reasons and where possible, discuss suitable alternatives,” they said.

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