Scamming sick days may end in jail term

Using fake doctor's certificates could be more serious than employees think

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 May, 2013, 5:09am

Faking sick leave certificates to get out of work may seem like a minor misdemeanour, but it could lead to a jail term.

Several cases involving alleged sick leave scams - in government departments or private companies - have ended up in court over the past few years.

Once convicted, the guilty parties were either sent to jail or ordered to perform hours of community service.

The most attention-grabbing recent case was that of a postal worker who used phoney documents he bought from online shopping site Taobao to bilk his employer of 635 rest days over four years. Tang Lai-kit, 40, was sentenced to 26 months' jail after being found guilty of 39 charges relating to the possession and use of false instruments and equipment for making false instruments from 2009 to January 2012.

The worker, who also pocketed HK$217,381 in sick pay, used the documents from Taobao to make fake doctor's approvals for sick leave and handed them in to his employer, Hongkong Post.

In January, a hospital pharmacist was ordered to pay her employer HK$119,000 and do 240 hours' community service for taking 28 days of extra annual leave. The 38-year-old pharmacist applied to her supervisor for leave then took the days off without submitting the endorsed application forms to the hospital's human resources department.

This meant she collected full pay while the leave was not deducted from her entitlement.

A magistrate lambasted her for causing loss to people who needed her help.

Civil service minister Paul Tang Kwok-wai earlier told the Legislative Council that 5,151 government officers had taken more than 30 days of sick leave each in 2011, up from 4,460 in 2007. The police, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and Department of Health had the most such employees.

Criminal convictions involving civil servants who defraud taxpayers of money in sick leave scams always catch media attention, but such crimes are also seen in private corporations.

In March last year, a kindergarten activity assistant was ordered to do 160 hours of community service for falsifying 184 days of sick leave last year, part of which was spent on her wedding and honeymoon.