Royal Mail to relaunch sickness bonus scheme

The Royal Mail will re-run its controversial sickness incentive scheme this summer, which rewards workers who do not take time off sick.

The announcement by Jon Allen, head of employee relations at the company, was made at a conference to launch the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) and Axa’s annual survey of workplace absence, which this year reported a slight drop in average absence per employee, from 7.2 to 6.8 days.

Allen said that this time round, only workers who had not taken a day off sick for a full year would be eligible to win a car, rather than after six months, as before.

But there will also be more smaller prizes, such as holidays and  vouchers, for those who manage six months without sick leave.

While the rewards have proved a real talking point among workers, Allen stressed that it was just one part of a much wider project, including training for 13,000 managers, more use of online tools, and more occupational health support.

During the six-month scheme, sickness absence among the organisation’s 190,000 employees fell by 1% to 5.7%, and attendance levels shot up, he added.

Airport company BAA is also now considering introducing a similar scheme.

A government-funded pilot scheme to look at alternatives to GPs signing people off sick has attracted 17 organisations so far,  with more still being signed up.

Dr Barbara Kneale, occupational health and safety adviser at car manufacturer Peugeot Citroën in Coventry, who is leading the project, said data had been coming in for around a month, and there would be a first assessment of how the scheme was progressing in June.

This year’s CBI/Axa report once again made it clear that when HR or senior management take control of absence management, it reduces significantly.

The survey found that return-to-work interviews are the most common form of absence policy, while most employers now offer rehabilitation programmes, and two-thirds have a stress management programme in place.

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