TAFEP Responded to Story of Man Who Was Forced to Stay Back at Work While His Father Died


Getting a call that a loved one is dying is something all of us dread having to go through.

But that’s exactly what happened to Syed Ahmad last year on 23 December.

Syed was at work at the time, and needed to rush to the hospital before his dad passed away.

The only problem? His manager didn’t let him leave work. 

Man Forced to Stay Back at Work While His Father Was Dying

Syed detailed his harrowing experience that day in a post on the Facebook group Complaint Singapore. 

On 23 Dec last year, Syed was at work as he was covering for a colleague who was on leave.

At around 9.40am, Syed received a call from a doctor at Tan Tock Seng who was attending to his ailing father.

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The doctor said that Syed’s father, who was terminally-ill, appeared to be unresponsive and was likely to pass soon.

He urged Syed to rush to the hospital so he could say his goodbyes.

Syed informed his operations manager (OM) and asked for permission to leave, but was told that he could only leave at 4pm.

It’s important to note that Syed received the call at 9.40am, meaning he would have to wait more than six hours before he could see his dying father.


Syed explained this to his OM, who agreed to a compromise: Syed could leave in one hour after he helped the OM clear his backlog, something he insisted on.

Then, at 10.30am, Syed received a call from a doctor informing him that they were closely monitoring his father and that he would have to be placed on life support.

Shortly after, Syed phoned his mother and told her what had happened. He urged her to rush to the hospital, and she agreed.

Made Unnecessary Comment About Mother

Syed asked his OM once again if he could leave work to see his father, adding that his mother was on the way there and would be expecting him.

However, he insisted that Syed stay back for another hour, citing the same reason as before.

An hour later, at 11.30am, Syed begged his OM for the third time for permission to leave work, saying his mother was already at the hospital, waiting for him.

But instead of sympathising with him, the OM said:

“But I thought that your mother is not being concerned about your father’s wellbeing?”

Syed replied that this didn’t matter, and that what mattered was that his father was moments away from death and wanted to see him.

At this, his OM finally released him, two hours after Syed received the first call.


Sadly, it was too late.

Broke Down & Cried Until Stomach Hurt

On his way to the hospital, at 11.42am, Syed received another call, this time informing him that his father has passed away.

“Upon hearing that, I broke down & cried until my stomach hurts (sic),” Syed said.

Syed was distraught because he was unable to fulfil his father’s final wish, which was to have his son whisper some last words and prayers into his ears before passing.

Terminated From Company After OM Complaint

A week after Syed’s father passed away, Syed got terminated from his company after his OM lodged a complaint about Syed taking several days of unapproved leave.

However, Syed explained that he had to take the leave to take care of his terminally-ill father, as he was his father’s only caregiver.


Moreover, Syed produced letters from medical specialists justifying his absence from work and passed them to his OM and the HR department.

Despite this, Syed accepts his termination, especially since he was thinking of leaving the company due to office politics.

“I am completely fine with the HR’s decision on terminating me in general & I sincerely accept it, because as a matter of fact, I’ve been longing to leave the company over a number of office politics that I’ve faced for the past 5 years working for them,” he said.

“Will Never Forgive” OM For What He Did

But one thing that Syed will never be able to get past is his OM’s refusal to let him off work to see his dying father.

“What pisses me off is that my OM did not allow me to rush down to the hospital immediately, as prompted by the doctor, to witness my father’s passing & have my final words & prayers to my father”, he said.
“Until today, I cannot & will never forgive my OM for what he had indirectly done to my father.”

TAFEP’s Response

In May, Syed lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower, but was referred to the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) instead.


Speaking to Mothership, TAFEP said it was aware of the case, and that it had engaged the company earlier this year.

“The employer acknowledged that they should have handled the matter more sensitively and empathetically, especially in this situation which involved the impending loss of a loved one,” a TAFEP spokesperson said.

“There should be early and open communication between employers and employees on any care-giving responsibilities, medical or family emergencies that employees may have”.

This, TAFEP said, would allow the company and employee to come up with an arrangement that will work for both parties.

According to TAFEP, the employer has since reached out to Syed Ahmad to apologise in person in August this year.

It is unclear, however, if this person was Syed’s OM.

The spokesperson added that companies should consider implementing HR policies and procedures that would make it easier for employees to apply for urgent leave in such situations.

There should also be proper grievance handling procedures in place, TAFEP said, to create a safe environment for employees that will allow them to raise their concerns and have those concerns addressed.


Advice to Other Workers

In an interview with Mothership, Syed advised workers in the same situation to “just leave the workplace immediately”, even if their time off has not been approved, “especially when it’s a life-and-death matter that you’re about to attend to”.

He conceded that this may not be possible for some professions,  “such as being a pilot or any other kind of role that requires you to station overseas or offshore”.

But for any other scenario, irrespective of your boss’ thoughts on the matter, Syed believes it’s better to simply leave.

And, after hearing what he had to go through, this is hard to argue with.

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