If you were thinking of offering your employees special rewards as incentives for having good attendance records, then you must read on. In fact, employers that offer attendance bonuses may find themselves falling foul of the law.
A newspaper introduced a rewards scheme for staff that did not to take time off sick. Under the plan, workers with full attendance records were entered into a prize draw to win Ford Focus cars or vacation vouchers worth $2,000. As a staff incentive, it seemed to work. The paper says its overall sickness absence levels fell during a nine-month period (between August and April) by 11%.
However, such schemes could have serious ramifications from a legal viewpoint, and leave employers vulnerable to a variety of legal claims.
Employees could bring discrimination claims on the grounds of disability or sex. The success of these claims would depend on each employee’s particular circumstances and needs, whether in relation to their family, religion or health.
Alternatively, qualifying employees could bring claims for being subjected to detriment treatment as a result of asserting their statutory rights, for example, for:-
- Time off for dependants and antenatal care;
- Time off for study or training or time off for jury service
- Maternity leave;
- Adoption leave; or
- Paternity or parental leave;
Disability discrimination may occur if, for example, an employee had time off connected to a disability and this was not taken into account by the employer under the reward scheme. The employee might claim that the failure of the employer to set aside his/her absence for disability related reasons amounted to less favourable treatment.
How can employers protect themselves from such claims?
Employers can avoid these pitfalls by including a list of exceptions in the reward scheme, for example, jury service or study leave, taking into account any statutory rights to time off; or
Pay bonuses to employees connected to performance in their job rather than implementing an attendance reward.
Employers should be wary of adopting an attendance bonus scheme without legal consultation.