Recently, I came across news from both Malaysia and Singapore on employers and businesses are penalising their own employees who are issued with compulsory leave of absence or stay-home notice because they are at risk of contacting Coronavirus or Covid-19 in short.

Two Types of Enforced Quarantine

Some companies are enforcing a mandatory stay-away from workplace if the incumbent has been to China. The employee is suppose to self-quarantine himself for 14 days.

While some people are issued by the government to be self-quarantine at home or at a government facility, they will not be able to report to work.

Penalised by Companies

While there are a lot of great companies out there looking after their staff, there are some black sheeps that are ready to exploit the situation.

Read More: Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak: What are Companies doing right by their employees

Some employers are deducting their annual leave or forcing no-pay leave upon their workers if they need to serve their 14-days quarantine period.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower has spoken up against employers who are not being reasonable and not adopting fair employment practises. If the employer wants to implement 14-days self quarantine on their workers, a full salaried must be paid during their absence of work and there is no need for an employee with zero travel history to China to be self-quarantine.

Employers are encourage to allow flexi-work arrangements with the affected employees and providing additional paid leave on top of their annual leave entitlement to cover their quarantine period.

In Malaysia, Peninsular Malaysia Labour Department said that employers are required to provide paid sick leave or hospitalisation leave during the quarantine period. A full salary must be paid to employees who received quarantine orders. Employers are not to instruct employees to utilise their annual leave entitlement or unpaid leave.

Caught In-between

So what gives?

On one hand, as an employer, you want to make sure that your workplace is safe and quarantine those suspected staff will ensure business continuity.

On the other hand, in the shoes of the affected employee, it isn’t fair to use their own annual leave entitlement to cover the quarantine period.

It is only in the early part of the year, if one were to used up 14 days of their annual leave entitlement, then they wouldn’t have any breaks left until 2021. This can lead to individuals not wanting to declare if they have come into close contact with an infected person until they fall sick themselves.

What Internet Says

My Opinion

In troubled times like this, companies shouldn’t penalised their staff. There are plenty of ways to make sure the business stay afloat while making sure that the workplace is safe.

Volunteer Pay Cuts

Senior management can take the lead to take voluntary pay cuts to tide this period over while encouraging others to do so as well. It shouldn’t be forced or coerced since everyone have different financial obligations.

Work From Home

Technology is very advanced today that some companies don’t even need an office space to operate. While there are positions where you need to be onsite to perform your work, companies can looked in to how to place the incumbent temporary to other positions where he or she can work from home. A good example is a retail employee that is quarantine can be deployed to answer customer service emails from home. This way the employee can learn a new skill too!

Have Online Training

When a business is running a full capacity, it is nearly impossible to pull anyone out for training. Right now, with a lot of businesses only running at 50% to 70%, companies can looked into how to utilise this period to train their employees. Those under quarantine can sign up for online courses to boost their profile or learn a new skill that will benefit the company.


I believe this period will passed just like SARS in 2003. Together, we can hold on tight, try to keep our heads above the water and ride this storm through.

Stay safe, everyone.

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45 replies on “Covid-19: Employees asked to Take Unpaid Leave by Companies

  1. This is certainly over the heads now!
    Work From Home option is best for both sides as it will ensure delivery of tasks in due time for the employer while also enabling employee to follow the quarantine procedure.
    And those employers are deducing this quarantine days from employees leaves balances are certainly not doing a good thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I liked one comment above:
    Employers have two responsibilities-Follow the laws and Regulations and take care of your employees.Full Stop.
    It is during the storm that the best sailers are tested.
    In my view finding a middle path for employees is what is needed and not outright force them to take leave without salary.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hello, Kally!
    Yesterday at work I have received an email regarding the Covid19 Virus and ways of protection. I am aware of the risks because I have read a lot to get informed but somehow a concern was raised.
    We have the possibility to work at home but only if we are managers, which is not my case yet. Somehow I am aware that if the virus will spread we will have to work at home, because support will have to be offered. But we shall see what will be in the future.

    Have a wonderful day ahead, and I happy to have re-discovered your blog again! Take care!

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Are your school taking precaution? My daughter’s school is having a major sanitization this week where they are getting professional companies to come and steam up everything. As parents, our duty is to make sure we don’t send sick kids to school.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. We are being very diligent about sanitation, but we’re not having a professional company come in to steam everything. That would be wonderful. Yet, given our population and location, it probably isn’t necessary. Where is your daughter’s school? The prep schools here have spring break in a week, and they’re not allowing the Chinese students to go home.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Good to hear that you all are being diligent about sanitation. We are located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. So far, her school is really small with 4 Teachers and 10 students. I’m not that worried given the small size and I only bring her to school every Friday for socializing. The rest of the time, I homeschooled her.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Good points, Kally. If upper management were to suspend their paychecks ,(assuming they can afford to) that could help. Love the idea of doing some training Hurray for the governments saying management should not automatically use this as an opportunity to stick it to the employees.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Here, I can draw benefits that I’ve paid into (unemployment insurance) to cover 2/3 of my paycheck. That’s enough to keep the lights on and between my stored food and foraging for food I’m confident in my ability to survive. But most of my coworkers live in the city and I worry about them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Kally for this article! I have not heard of employers expecting their employees to take unpaid leave. It is 2020 and as you stated most employees can work from home. I feel that employers are trying to find why to cut some of their losses from this situation and this is how some of them how decided to do it. Well, they have to look in the mirror each morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s so awful that some companies are trying to get away with forcing unpaid leave on employees. It’s scary enough to face a quarantine, but a quarantine without financial support would be twice as stressful. It’s not like we can take a break from eating or electric bills just because of quarantine, after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that is exploitation. Many of them not only had to quarantine themselves but also facing the entire family who is living under the same roof to be quarantine as well. Imagine a family of four with father and mother who lost their income. That is devastating!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s no one solution to cover for all the companies out there.

      Depending on the individual company, one can deploy different solutions to save the business. However, the last resort should be of the employees.

      Can the company dipped into their fund? Cut away their previous investments? Turn the situation around with innovative solutions like Apple and LV manufacturing face masks or Decathlon manufacturing respiratory masks? Ask shareholders invest more? Ask board of directors and senior management take a voluntary pay cut? Ask shareholders to donate last quarter profits/ dividends?

      These are just solutions on top of my head right now 😊 and I believe there are plenty more solutions out there even without government intervention.


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