News>Employee incentives used

Incentives used to reduce employee absence - European survey
April 12, 2007

  • Over a quarter of respondents offer employees incentives to take fewer sick days
  • Almost half promote health initiatives and benefits to reduce sickness absence
  • Employers’ opinions vary on how much employee absence is due to ill health
  • Over a fifth believe anti-discrimination legislation prevents them from managing employee absence in a timely way
  • Six in ten are concerned that health benefit costs will rise significantly as the average age of the workforce increases

    In an attempt to tackle employee absence, 27% of employers now offer incentives to encourage staff to take fewer sick days, according to a new European survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. But opinion on the appropriateness of these incentives, such as vouchers and bonuses, is mixed. Some employers – particularly those in the UK – are concerned that they may increase ‘presenteeism’ among those who are genuinely ill. Over 380 organisations across Europe took part in the survey.

    Steve Clements, principal at Mercer, explained: “Some employers believe that by offering incentives to reduce absence, they are encouraging employees who are genuinely sick to attend work. Many also struggle with the notion of rewarding employees for doing what is expected of them - that is, to work when they are fit to do so.”

    To help reduce the risk of employees being absent due to ill health, almost half of the respondents (49%) promote health initiatives and benefits in their organisation. Among these employers, health screening is the most popular initiative, with 60% offering access to this service. Interestingly, Southern Europe takes the lead, with 78% of companies offering health screening followed closely by Eastern Europe at 76%, compared to 49% in Northern Europe. Subsidised gym membership is most prevalent in Eastern Europe, with 54% offering this benefit to employees compared to 32% in Northern Europe and 27% in Southern Europe.

    In contrast, just 13% of respondents in Eastern Europe provide support for employees who are trying to quit smoking, compared to 39% in Southern Europe and 33% in Northern Europe.

    Source: "Incentives used to reduce employee absence - European survey", Mercer, April 12, 2007

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