Royal Mail offers employees prizes to turn up for work

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The Independent Online

The Royal Mail is taking desperate measures to persuade their employees to turn up for work. Absenteeism is so highthat staff are being offered the chance to win cars and holiday vouchers in an attempt to lure them into the workplace on a consistent basis.

The Royal Mail is taking desperate measures to persuade their employees to turn up for work. Absenteeism is so highthat staff are being offered the chance to win cars and holiday vouchers in an attempt to lure them into the workplace on a consistent basis.

Postal workers who manage to pitch up every day from last Monday until the end of next January without taking a day off sick will be entered into a prize draw and could win one of 34 Ford Focuses or 68 holiday vouchers worth £2,000.

At any time, 10,000 staff - or 6.5 per cent of a total workforce of 170,000 - are absent. The average Royal Mail worker is off sick for 12 days every year, compared with a national average of seven.

The Royal Mail is also offering 12 weekend breaks to workers who are nominated by their managers for having consistently good attendance records.

The Communications Workers' Union (CWU), which represents postal workers, dismissed the scheme as a "gimmick" and pointed out that people with serious illnesses would be penalised by the system.

Dave Ward, deputy general secretary of the CWU, said there were endemic problems and that a prize draw would not solve the problem. "Royal Mail needs to be honest. It needs to admit it has serious problems that need to be solved," he said. "Gimmicks won't offer a solution to low morale and stress levels resulting from the physical demands of the job and regimented management styles." He added that the Royal Mail should work with staff to see how job satisfaction could be improved. The initiative is to be extended to managers and administrative staff at the end of the month. It comes after years of complaints by employees' leaders about the authoritarian approach of the organisation, especially among supervisors and middle managers.

A spokesman for Royal Mail said: "We're saying we have got a problem with absenteeism, we want to tackle it and the way we're trying is with a carrot approach. We think the costs of the scheme will be recovered and we think this will help." He added that the company was also setting up a new scheme for dealing with absenteeism in collaboration with unions.

Elsewhere, there was a degree of scepticism about the Royal Mail's approach. One consultant in the field, Alan Aldridge of Active Health Partners, said: "How can offering a car for attendance help the health of the workforce? If employees are genuinely ill, they need to take time off to fully recover: enticing them to keep working with the possibility of winning a prize is really not the way to manage the problem of absenteeism. Malingerers ... who regularly take 'sickies' are the only people to benefit."

The supermarket giants Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's are spearheading a very different approach to the Royal Mail. They have announced a crackdown by saying that they will not pay sickness money for the first few days of absence.

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