Is Royal Mail draw right way to cut down on sickies?

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In the wake of recent press coverage of the Royal Mail's scheme to reward staff that have good attendance records, Business Management Zone has received a release from one company, Croner, concerned that the program sets a bad precedent.

The company, part of the Wolters Kluwer group, says, "Companies thinking of following the example of Royal Mail's incentive scheme to reward staff for simply turning up to work could end up facing costly compensation claims."

The release says it is "highlighting the risk of claims from employees for detrimental treatment merely for exercising their statutory rights to time off sick", and that they also risk discrimination claims "due to disability, sex and even religion, if rewards are given for full attendance without making allowances for legitimate reason...

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28th Apr 2005 13:54

Beating the cheats - but what's the price?
This is an issue which we have debated hotly on HRZone - see our feature discussing the issues at: Working the reward schemes

Be very careful about reward schemes! A survey recently discovered that in those organisations where pay was used to motivate staff a secondary issue has occurred: customer services relations.

In these instances it found that employees were rewarded for the number of transactions they made.

At a contact centre an employee-terminated a customer’s call mid-transaction because the three-minute customer time limit had been reached.

Where money and prizes are dangled in front of employees - it seems to go without saying that people will find a way to manipulate them to take advantage - afterall why not!

The other issue here is the danger of 'presenteeism' - interestingly while there have been hundreds of studies done on the cost of absenteeism there are few on the costs of forcing people to turn upto work when they are genuinely ill - certainly measures to 'beat the cheats' should be applauded but is it right to drag people into work - many on low wages who need the income just to get by when they're really ill - it seems a folly especially for those who work on machinery and where safety is compromised.

Annie Hayes
HRZone Editor

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29th Apr 2005 13:17

How long will the benefit last?
It does seem as if the system of incentives has worked within Royal Mail - but how long will the effect last?

It seem to me that a system like this is predicated on the basis that people choose not to work and they need additional incentives to get some into work. If that is the case, then the likelihood is that the level of incentives will need to be increased to make it worthwhile. Where does it then end?

Another issue to be addressed is the alienation that will be felt by those who genuinely have a days sickness and then are precluded from participating in the scheme.

As an outsider, who does not claim to understand all the ins and outs of Royal Mail and their employee relations, the whole scenario seems to flow from a poor level of commitment to the aims and priorities of the business. Doubtless this is steeped in the culture of the organisation and will not change overnight, but the long term solution has to be to make a lasting change in attitude – and this can only come by example and from the top of the organisation.

Many businesses operate with much lower levels of absence and without recourse to incentives – I wonder how they manage it!

Quentin Colborn

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03rd May 2005 11:58

What message does this send?
It's the same with all these management actions. Whatever you do conveys much more information that what you say.

The Royal Mail is attempting to bribe people not to take sick days. Either people are sick and can't work or they are ok to work.

What they are trying to do is move the line where people think it is ok to take a day off because they feel a "bit off" that day.

I don't know what their average absence rate is, but I'd guess it is well above the average for a business to prompt this sort of scheme.

The bottom line is that their contract of employment gives some rights and obligations.

The Royal Mail management should work to the contract. Their proposal is bad management practice and will de-motivate the rest!

I feel so strongly that bad management has cut the ground away from under so many great British businesses and institutions that we have set up a company to try to stop it.

We offer free advice to help in situations just like these. Contact me for details.

What a depressing start to the week!

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