By Gabriel Liong
Masum’s story is one that is fraught with much frustration. He needs treatment for his workplace injury, but his boss is trying to avoid paying for it despite the law . And he is owed thousands of dollars in unpaid medical leave wages (MC pay) too.
On 15 March 2012, Md Masum Reza Md Abdul Gofur was passing a heavy metal sheet to a colleague on a higher platform when the sheet fell. While trying to prevent its fall, Masum injured his right shoulder. To this day, more than a year after the accident, his right shoulder remains weak, with a very limited range of motion.
According to Masum, his employer first tried to tell the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) that it wasn’t a worksite accident. Fortunately for him, another worker acted as a witness and provided a statement to the MOM supporting Masud’s account.
Getting the needed medical treatment, however, wasn’t so easily solved. Masum required a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, as well as an Electromyography (EMG) scan, both costly procedures. The hospital asked for letters of guarantee (LOG) from his employer in to cover the costs. masum waited nine months from the accident (March 2012 to December 2012) for these LOGs to be issued. He is concerned that serious permanent injury may have set in the interim.
And still, more obstacles lie in wait. Masum says that his employers do not want to pay for his treatments any longer. Perhaps hoping to save costs at the expense of Masum’s recovery, they are instead pushing him to go for medical assessment — where financial compensation is decided based on the degree of residual incapacity, thus closing the case.
But getting well is more important than money. Masum explains: “Doctor say stay and finish treatment, if not next time many problem.” Treatment includes physiotherapy, so that he can recover the full range of motion and mobility in his right shoulder. However, his employer regularly procrastinates in providing payment. Recalling the numerous times that he has asked his company for money, Masum says in a frustrated tone, “sometimes boss pay, sometimes no pay.
“Now I go hospital, they show me [invoices with] a lot of money [still outstanding].” In total, some $4,400 in medical bills have yet to be settled, and because of this, he is refused further medical treatment by the hospital.
Unpaid medical leave pay
To make matters worse, Masum’s employer owes him roughly $4,000 in monthly wages since the time he was injured. This is because by law, workers who are on medical leave are entitled to two-thirds of their basic salary. Masum has medical leave certificates totalling ten months.
He says he has asked his employers for this entitlement on numerous occasions, but is always met with the reply “OK, next time pay.” He intones sadly, “if only I have MC money, then can go for therapy,” expressing his desire to be fully recovered and able to work again, even if it comes at his own expense.
Sadly, a common experience
Masum is not alone in his plight. The same night I spoke with Masum, two more workers were found to be facing the same problem. Mohammed Momen Mohammed Daj suffered an injury to his left middle finger on 22 February 2013. He was given a medical certificate for three months initially that has been extended. When he first suffered the injury his employers told him “Send back. No need operation. No need anything.” Since then, he has only managed to claim $100, a tiny part of his medical expenses and medical leave wages.
Another worker, Sohel Rama Abu Bakkar Sikder, injured his back and hand and received medical certificates amounting to seventy days. When asked if he received any salary while on medical leave, he says “boss always say give, give, give, but never give.”
For many workers, this frustrating situation is the reality that they find themselves in. Despite being entitled to medical care and MC pay, in reality their employers procrastinate and even try to send them back home without any money and without making a full recovery from their injuries – leaving them physically broken and stuck in a financial rut.
 The Work Injury Compensation Act, Section 14A, Third Schedule, paragraph 4 uses the term “temporary incapacity” to mean medical leave, and says
4. Where temporary incapacity whether total or partial results from the injury, the employee shall be entitled to full earnings for a period of 60 days if he is hospitalised and 14 days if he is not hospitalised and thereafter to a further periodical payment of an amount equal to two-thirds of his earnings during the incapacity or during a period of one year, whichever period is shorter.