Has Anyone Used Incentive Schemes to Reduce Sickness Absence?

lady sleeping

Can anyone advise if they have any experience of using incentives to reduce sickness?Money is not an option so I wondered if rewarding staff for good attendance with additional days off (1 per six months free from absence) would be viable. I am currently working on the financial impact of this and wondered if anyone had applied a similar system and if there was a marked improvement in attendance?

We need to communicate with young people in a different way

We had high levels of absenteeism but used the following methods to address this. While I agree somewhat with what people are saying about ‘youth’ of today, we have a large amount of employees who are 18-25, and just learned that we need to communicate with them and do things in a different way. These are now some of our most loyal employees.

1. Set clear expectations from day one

When new employees come into the contact centre, they sit through a group induction with myself for 2 weeks. On day one, as well as sign their contracts (which include sick leave policies) we also discuss all policies and expectations of them while they are at work. We clearly state when they will need doctors certificates, when they are required to log in and to always phone when late. We minimize the ‘I didn’t know who to call’ issue by always having a team leader phone, with a number for people to call.

At the same time we also discuss the benefits associated with the workplace (shares, discounts etc).

As all employees are on a three month probation period – we are honest with them that if standards are not met, they may not pass probation.

Sounds harsh? not really… they are coming into a workplace and being paid to work.

2. Training & Development

Ensure that your staff are trained to do the job and feel confident with what they are doing. Give them extra responsibility, develop their skills and see their potential. We encourage people to move upwards through our company and to have career goals. Training is provided as:

  • Initial induction training
  • Refresher emails
  • Intranet updates
  • Refresher training courses
  • Interactive workshops in customer service skills
  • Competency based training

3. Improve workplace culture

It is no good employing the advice above if the workplace culture is not up to scratch.

We have:

  • Social events
  • Morning teas
  • Casual dress Friday’s
  • Reward and recognition programs
  • Monthly team breakfasts

We make sure that our people know we are flexible, and as long as they give, we give. We also allow people to be individuals. This includes personalising work stations and feeling free to have a chat with someone. I have been into call centres where this does not happen,and the change in atmosphere is very clear.

4. Annual incentive

Part of an employees annual bonus relies on their performance review rating. For example we have the ratings:

  • Meets expectations
  • Meets expectations Plus
  • Exceptional Contributor

The higher the rating, the higher this component for the bonus is. But also, if someone is ‘under review’ they are not eligible for the bonus at all. During monthly feedback with their managers, they are told how they are tracking.

5. Feedback

Its no good setting expectations and then not letting people know if they are reaching them. We have regular feedback and coaching sessions in the form of:

  • Weekly emails from team leaders on phone stats
  • Monthly one on one meetings
  • Ad hoc meetings

These are just some of the things we have put in place over the last year, and absenteeism and staff turnover have both reduced dramatically.

Thanks to Andrew Goodyear.

You can improve attendance without financial payment

Yes, you can absolutely improve attendance without financial payment. I am a manager in a national call centre and had the best team attendance for one year within my region (about 2000 employees; in teams of 15-20).

This was achieved through numerous and varied efforts. Some activities included:

1. Sending out a team email once a month highlighting who had perfect attendance (with praise and encouraging words). As well as highlighting the agents that had continual perfect attendance – two months in a row….etc…

2. Great job emails. You can follow the group email up with an individual email to each agent. (Saying “great job”, or “well done”)….etc…

3. A “Perfect Attendance” list was also posted outside my office. (A revised copy of the email sent out).

4. Attendance was a part of our bi-weekly coaching session. We would almost always take a look at their attendance – to again give praise, or to comment on any “patterns” of lates or absences that may be occuring. Find out a bit more about the why’s and what they were doing about it to correct the situation.

5. Wish them well absence calls. When they were absent, there was always a phone call to touch base and to wish them well.

6. For agents on short term disability, I kept in regular contact with them, sent them a card from the team, and have even given team “welcome back” cards to make them feel more comfortable. (after returning from an extended leave).

7. Set expectations from the beginning. Even though the company has a set policy, it’s important to be clear as to expectations either on a one-on-one basis, or in a group setting – or both i.e:

  • They are expected to call if absent or very late,
  • Do they need to provide a doctor’s note?,
  • Does it affect their overall performance rating, and how?
  • Do they have pay taken out for time away

For call centres, it’s important that representatives understand that they are expected to be logged in to system and ready to take calls at the start of the shift. Do the agents fully understand how their absence affects their peers, the clients, the company?
Lastly, health is the most important thing; people need to know they won’t get “in trouble” for being sick.

8. Year end thank you. At year’s end, I did end up giving two agents “movie passes” for having perfect attendance for the whole year, but they weren’t aware that they would be getting this. They also received balloons and a small certificate in front of the team. People usually really appreciate recognition and praise.

Thanks to Laura.

A clean hands policy

Have you thought about implementing a clean hands policy to reduce sickness related absence? It has been proved to reduce SRA by up to 40%. Our desks are one of the main sources of infection and telephones, computer equipment are another. We blitz staff rest rooms on a regular basis but leave everything else to chance. By using a sanitiser with an effective barrier once a week as part of your cleaning regime, you can make a big difference.

With thanks to Steve Morrow.

Money, points, time off

Incentives and rewards work really well:

Money, points, time off, but they must be immediate and objective.

Subjective rewards can “turn off” many more than they “turn on”.

A real time individual agent feedback system has reduced absenteeism, reduced attrition, increased productivity. It simply tells agents every minute of their shift, how they are doing – and how they are being rewarded for it. Amazing results.

 Thanks to David Brown.

Attendance was an integral part of an Agents annual bonus

I implemented a bonus structure whereby Attendance was an integral part of an Agents annual bonus. The value was 20% of their overall annual bonus which is a significant amount and only paid out at the end of each business year. I allowed them two uncertified sick days per year, anything beyond that which was not accompanied with a Doctor’s note resulted in a total loss of 20% of their bonus. It is easy money for the Agent to make and ensured they turned up for work.

Thanks to Gary.

Author: Jo Robinson

Published On: 27th Feb 2010 - Last modified: 7th Apr 2022
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  • Hello,

    I have managed a call center & feel if you can have an Evaluation setup for the officers & have a parameter for Attendenace it would work wonders put a weightage for attendance. The more sick leaves an individauls takes it effects his Monthly evaluation scores, which inturn effect his yearly appraisal which would effect promotion, bonus & increments.

    Well hope the following helps.


    Well Wisher 21 Dec at 07:40
  • Our organization attempted finanical incentives and testing over a 12 month period found no impact on attendance. We found the same people taking advantage of the incentive were the same we could count on every day before.

    Frank 21 Dec at 22:37
  • I agree with Laura’s comments, but need to express my own opinion regarding the youth of today and their lack of concern or guilt for others. They will not think twice about taking leave or the impact on team even though its their friends. I manage a team in a callcntre and i’m lucky I have a team whose majority are over the age of 35 yet other teams in other depts, are younger an they struggle considerably more.
    However as stiputlated praise goes a long way and cant disagree this is best way forward, just keep plugging at them.

    Well wisher 10 Feb at 21:09
  • I hear & understand what Laura is commenting on, I am Operations Manager for a National Call centre, based in Glasgow. Currently we have two shifts in our Glasgow branch, one shift has an average age of 25, the other shift an average age of 40+. I am forever dealing with disciplinary issues on the younger shift, but have never issued disciplinaries to the other. I made myself very unpopular by mixing up the two shifts and not only that introduced the Bradford Factor as way to record MIA (missing in actions – well I do have an American boss). Over the last 6-months the absence levels have dropped dramatically for how long who knows !

    James 17 Feb at 22:11