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May 27, 2014

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Sick leave forecast to soar when Brazil World Cup gets under way

AS the 2014 FIFA World Cup approaches, the thoughts of many Shanghai football fans turn to playing hooky from work.

Some of the games, to be held in Brazil from June 12-July 13, will air live in Shanghai as dawn is breaking. Bad time for day shift workers.

What to do? Asking the boss for leave is a bit iffy. Office and factory managers aren’t easily hoodwinked by stories of sick aunts when the World Cup is on.

Many diehard football fans prefer to play sick so they can stay home and watch the games. You need a doctor’s note saying you are sick, but at least your employer can’t say no. What you have to hope is the boss doesn’t check with the hospital and find your note a fake.

One worker found out the hard way that some employers do check. A worker surnamed Zhang used a fake sick note to justify a week of travel abroad, Shandong Workers’ Daily reported earlier. When he returned to work, he was fired. The company had checked with the hospital. The case went to local arbitration and the dismissal was upheld.

“Cheating could destroy the trust between you and your boss,said Vera Zhou, 34, who works for a German company in Shanghai.

Authenticity guaranteed

Still, many workers are willing to run the risk, and online businesses know a good thing when they see it.

Some online shops sell sick leave certificates for anything from a one-day fever to a full-blown pregnancy.

One store named Shanghai Sick Notes told Shanghai Daily it sells “authentic” sick certificates provided by top hospitals for 50 yuan (US$8) or more, depending on the length of the time-off required. It’s not just a racket for football fans. People commonly fake sick leave to extend vacations or just to take a break from a job they don’t like.

“It’s hard to ask a company for a leave of absence," Shanghai Sick Notes said on its website. “If you want to make your holiday longer, or if you just don’t want to go to work, you can ask us for help.”

A shopkeeper with the website, who declined to give her name, told Shanghai Daily: “Besides sick notes, we can also give you certificates of registration, medical records and even surgery records if you need them.”

She said the shop’s clients include employees of government agencies, foreign companies, public institutions, and both state and private businesses, but she declined to discuss by what means the documentation is obtained.

Clients need to place their orders at least one or two days in advance to give Shanghai Sick Notes enough time to obtain a sick note from a hospital, according to the online shopkeeper.

Is it legal? Well, that’s a bit of a grey area. Amid uncertainty, vendors tend to try to disguise the transactions.

For example, one cannot type “sick notes” into search on the retail platform and come up with any results. So Shanghai Daily used, the Chinese version of Google, to find Shanghai Sick Notes. We asked about buying a one-week sick leave note. We were told it would cost 50 yuan, and then were sent a link to a site on Taobao selling wedding card designs.

If we purchased a design for 50 yuan, we would be sent a sick note, written in the name we gave and issued by a hospital, we were told.

Unhappy hospitals

Hospitals are very unhappy about the sick notes racket.

“Fake notes can be easily detected by a simple check with a hospital because we have digital records of sick notes issued,” said an official at a major hospital.

Are medical personnel complicit in the sick-note racket?

“If we find any doctors doing such things, we would report them to the authorities,” the official said.

“They would be punished and could lose their professional accreditation. I doubt many would be willing to risk their careers for a bit of extra money.”

As the World Cup approaches, the luckiest employees will have a boss who wants to watch the matches as much as they do and aren’t going to be keeping tight track of work hours.

“My boss is understanding,” said an office worker surnamed Zhu. “I’ll just call him and tell him I’ll be in a bit late.”


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