UK - Giving workers financial incentives to cut high sickness absence figures will create new problems for employers, health experts warn.
British Airways has become the latest high-profile company to attempt to tackle the problem by offering staff £1000 provided they take no more than 16 days’ sick leave over a two-year period.
The airline says that, on average, employees take 17 days’ sick leave a year compared to a national average of seven days.
But consultant Towers Perrin’s head of health and risk, Kate Winn-Rogers, said: “You will be amazed at how many staff take 16 days off in any two-year period if they know they have got 16 days that they can take over that time.”
But she warned: “After a couple of years employees will also start to see the £1000 as an entitlement rather than a reward.”
She pointed out that such rewards were common in the US but were falling out of favour as many employers that gave staff up to 10 days’ sick leave or a cash sum were either seeing this taken as statutory leave or discouraging staff to take sick leave when they needed it.
The BA move followed union calls for an incentive plan to solve the problem of high sickness absence.
BA customer service and operations director Mike Street said: “We believe this is an innovative way to reward staff with reasonable attendance records.
“Other companies have considered punitive action for staff with poor attendance records, but we do not believe that is right for our people.”BA is the latest in a number of firms which are attempting to cut sickness absence.
Royal Mail has launched a prize draw – with cars and holiday vouchers up for grabs – for staff who do not take time off sick before January 31. And supermarket giant Tesco announced that it would not pay staff for their first three days of absence but give reward vouchers to those with low absence rates.
Mercer Human Resource Consulting said such policies could help to reduce the number of frequent, short-term absences, but they could have a negative impact on productivity and do little to help long-term ill-health problems.
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