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The pitfalls of attendance bonuses

10 July, 2018

Attendance bonuses can leave employers vulnerable to indirect discrimination due to disability, sex and even religion if rewards are given for full attendance without making allowances for protected reasons why employees may need to take time off.

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 same stands for reasons related to pregnancy or religion.

The employee might claim that the failure of the employer to set aside his/her absence for disability, pregnancy or religious reasons amounted to less favourable treatment.

The bottom line is that employees should not miss out on rewards because of time off taken in these circumstances.

It is necessary for employers to think carefully about, and make allowances in the scheme rules for all the legitimate reasons why staff might need to take time off.

Such a scheme should make allowances for absence taken, for example, due to reasons relating to a disability.

This, however, is difficult in practice as an employer will need to assess each absence and whether or not it amounts to a disability, potentially needing medical advice.

In some cases, even bouts of short term and seemingly unrelated sickness absences can be attributable to a disability because often the short term illnesses are related to or linked to a more serious health issue that is, in fact, a disability.

A bonus scheme should address how to account for the different rights to time off that employees have, such time off for dependants, jury service, disability related illnesses and time off for religious events.

Identified areas should be discounted from the calculations to ensure there are no discrimination risks.

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