A hospital pharmacist has been ordered to pay her employer HK$119,000 and do 240 hours' community service for taking 28 days of extra annual leave.
Chen Man-lo, 38, applied to her supervisor for leave then simply 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.
Her scam came to light when her supervisor at Kwong Wah Hospital realised she had exceeded her holiday allowance.
Kowloon City magistrate Jonathan Wong Kwok-ho said Chen's crime was very serious, and her greed "had caused loss to those people who needed your help in society".
Chen joined the hospital in 1998 and earned about HK$100,000 a month. She earlier pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and has resigned from her job. In mitigation yesterday, defence lawyer Leslie Yeung said Chen had shown remorse as she was willing to compensate her employer and it was unlikely she would commit a similar offence.
Wong said he had decided to give Chen a chance as she was remorseful, willing to compensate the hospital and had a good academic and family background.
In December last year, a postal worker was jailed for 26 months for wrongly claiming 635 sick days using phoney documents he bought from popular online shopping site Taobao.
Civil service minister Paul Tang Kwok-wai told the Legislative Council on Wednesday 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.
Tang said there were measures in place to manage the sick leave of civil servants and prevent abuse. The Civil Service Department reviewed the data regularly.
Federation of Civil Service Unions chairman Leung Chau-ting said excessive sick leave was not a big problem given the size of the 160,000-strong civil service.
"Granting of sick leave is very strict nowadays," he said. "If an employee gets a five-day sick leave approval from a private doctor more than three times, his or her section head will bar the employee from seeing private doctors again. In that case, the employee would have to consult doctors at public hospitals."