Q. Am I able to reward employees for their low sickness?
A. A high attendance rate is key to a business’s success and often an indication of a committed and motivated workforce.
Understandably, many employers are keen to reward staff who demonstrate a high level of attendance throughout the year; however, this can present some issues as it will naturally disadvantage those who have had no choice but to take time off due to sickness.
As an employer, it will be wise to create a workplace policy around rewards and workplace bonuses to outline your stance on the matter.
In this policy, you should clearly explain the qualifying criteria which employees must meet to earn a reward, as well as how many sickness absences would result in them being ineligible.
There is a risk that staff who have been off on pregnancy or disability-related sickness could claim discrimination, on the basis that rewarding staff for high attendance unfairly disadvantages them.
Therefore, you are encouraged to follow the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Statutory Code of Practice on the Equality Act 2010, which advises employers to make an exception and overlook absences relating to these protected characteristics when determining who qualifies for a reward.
When introducing this practice you need to consider whether it will be a one-off, or if you are prepared to provide a reward for high attendance each year.
It is advisable to confirm this in the relevant policy and you should explicitly state if you are going to reserve the right to withhold the reward under specific circumstances.
If you choose to reward employees for their high attendance, it will be important to do so cautiously to avoid causing any unrest among other staff.
Line managers should notify eligible staff in a professional and courteous manner and it is wise to provide written confirmation for record-keeping purposes.
There are no rules on how to reward staff, therefore you may choose to reward them in whichever way you see fit. While monetary rewards are common, some employers opt to provide shopping vouchers or an extra days’ annual leave instead.
Rewarding staff for high attendance has often proven a successful way of discouraging unauthorised absences and increasing productivity, however, when making your decision you should consider how the promise of a reward may encourage presenteeism.
While the prospect of having staff attend work while unwell may not initially seem too concerning, this practice has been proven to pose a significant threat to productivity and overall cost.
Therefore, you should weigh up the risk and consider if rewarding staff for high attendance is going to be suitable for your organisation.
Peter Done is managing director of law firm Peninsula