Royal Mail to repeat sickness scheme despite controversy

Royal Mail’s controversial sickness incentive scheme, which gives workers who do not take time off sick the chance to win a car or holiday vouchers, is to be run again this summer.

Jon Allen, head of employee relations at the company, said 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 would be many more smaller prizes, such as a holiday or vouchers, for those who managed six months.

While offering rewards had proved a real talking point among staff, it had been just one part of a much wider project, including training for 13,000 managers, more use of online tools and more OH support, Allen stressed.

In six months, sickness absence among the organisation’s 190,000 staff had fallen by 1% to 5.7%, and attendance levels had gone up 11%, meaning 1,000 more workers were turning up each day.

During the scheme, 37 workers won a new car, 70 won holiday vouchers, and 90,000 were rewarded with £150 worth of other types of vouchers.
Airports business BAA is also now considering introducing a similar scheme.

However, employers have been warned that without careful planning, following Royal Mail’s example could land them in legal hot water.

Law firm Croner said disgruntled staff could potentially make claims on the basis that they have been treated unfairly merely for exercising their statutory rights to time off sick.

Employers could also open themselves up to discrimination claims on the grounds of disability, sex and even religion, if rewards are given for full attendance without making allowances for legitimate reasons for taking time off, Croner said.

Allen said that in Royal Mail’s case, exemptions had only been made when an absence was due to disability or pregnancy.

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