It is estimated that the UK economy loses 150 million working days to sickness absence each year. This led the Government to call for a major review of sickness absence in February 2011. The independent review aims to increase the number of people in employment and contribute to sustainable economic growth. It will explore a wide range of options for structural reform and rebalancing incentives in the management of sickness absence.
Some organisations opt to offer cash-based incentives to employees, for example for 100% attendance over a given period. These have been shown to improve attendance to a certain degree (mainly when introduced with other management initiatives to manage sickness absence) although there are concerns that these incentives may encourage presenteeism and fail to deal with the underlying causes of absenteeism.
Perhaps a better way to incentivise attendance is through incentive schemes as part of wellness programmes. Wellness programmesare essential to the long-term survival of all businesses as they can reduce costs associated with lost productivity and absenteeism and therefore result in improved performance. They can take various forms involving:
- workplace risk assessments;
- referral to specialist nurses or doctors following long-term or short-term intermittent sickness absence;
- lifestyle health assessments;
- health promotion initiatives including campaigns and health events;
- counselling support for staff experiencing home or work-related difficulties affecting their ability to work;
- signposting to smoking cessation advice;
- active workforce programme e.g. lunch time walks, cycling club, 5-a-side tournaments;
- employee assisted programmes.
In order for organisations to develop an attractive and suitable health and well-being programme which includes incentives (e.g. discounted gym membership) , it’s essential that they record sickness absence accurately and differentiate between absence due to non-health-related reasons. The collection of data will provide information about the five main reasons for absence, which will provide the basis for developing a suitable and targeted wellness programme for their organisation.
If you would like to know more about incentivising attendance as part of wellness programmes, or any other occupational health issue, you can contact the Health for Work Adviceline (www.health4work.nhs.uk)on 0800 077 88 44 for free confidential advice.