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Bahrain warns of zero-tolerance for holiday abuse

Officials move to clamp on absenteeism in work places and public schools

Gulf News

Manama: Bahrain’s health officials have warned of a zero-tolerance policy towards sick note seekers on Wednesday and Thursday.

The warning was issued amid concerns that people will attempt to prolong the three-day holiday given to public sector employees to celebrate Eid, the festivities that mark the end of Ramadan, the month during which adult Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise until sunset.

According to local reports, the head of health centres said that only those who were truly sick and needed a rest would be given the sick notes to stay home.

Under new strict rules to help curb absenteeism at work places, sick notes will be delivered by doctors only with the approval of the health centre’s chairperson or his or her deputy, the official said.

Public sector employees had a five-day break, a combination of the two-day weekend on Friday and Saturday and three Eid days. However, some employees planned to add Wednesday and Thursday and link them with the next weekend in order to have a nine-day break.

Faisal Ali, a public sector employee, attributed the attitude to the lack of “serious” work in the short period between holidays.

“When you have a position where you do not deal directly with the public, you have a tendency to think that going to the office for one or two days between holidays will not make a difference since everything is slow,” he said. “Extending holidays abroad or using the days to rest more or to spend them with the family is a great temptation without serious effects on the workflow,” he said.

Civil services in charge of government sector employees in Bahrain and other Gulf countries have launched initiatives to have a stricter control of the absenteeism often linked with religious or national holidays.

The campaigns have also targeted middle and high schools where students’ absenteeism levels are often high ahead or after vacations.

“The problem is often confined to public schools,” said Samira Mohammad, a teacher in a private school.

“It seems that management is not always strict and that policies set out by the ministry are not fully respected. In private schools, such attitudes are not tolerated at all and discipline regarding attendance is truly and uncompromisingly reinforced,” she said.