Friday, March 7, 2008

Lose or Limit Sickdays to Boost Productivity

Yesterday I met with a bright CFO who was considering how to balance being the employer of choice to attract and retain the very best professionals via benefits with a slowing economy reeling from sub prime woes that is slowing new contracts as financing gets squeezed. This firm gave employees 7 sick days annually. Sick days used to be use them or lose them but this led to a very unproductive November and December as employees used them all up during the holiday season. This led to a policy which allowed sick days to accumulate up to 14 days maximum along with a carryover.

When times get tough look closely at the design of your sick pay plan and ask some hard questions. Here are yesterdays questions and answers for a group with 250 employees and an average salary of $60,000

  1. What did the sick days/personal days cost in 2006 and 2007? What was the year to year trend? Not sure of the cost but the trend went from 7 days used to an average of 6 days.

  2. How many sick days/personal days do employees receive and how many do they use on average? 6 days was average use.

  3. What type of return on labor is targeted in your industry? 3-1 is goal.

A $60,000 annual salary equates to $5,000 monthly.

There are 21 working days in the average month excluding weekends and 2 weeks vacation.

$5,000/21 working days = $238.10 as the direct cost of a sick day.

Since the company is seeking a 3-1 return on labor they are actually out the $238.10 in direct costs plus the value of a days pay to the firm which is 3 times the daily wage or $714.30

So the actual cost of a sick day to the firm is $238.10+$714.30 or $952.40.

250 employees using an average of 6 sick days generates an annual cost of $1,428,600
$1,428,600 is 9.5% of payroll.

A reduction for this firm of one sick day represents $238,100 annually or $952.40 per employee. Folks that's enough to buy major medical for an entire family in my market.

What is truly sad is that this employer like many believed they had insured the real risk which was long term disability which has a cost of less than 1% of payroll. Not to mention there is a gap between day 14 when sick days end and day 90 when LTD benefits begin.

Some may say there is no way to get a reduction of one sick day without taking away benefits or the cost of sick days is not a real expense since its buried in payroll anyway. Really? This is the black hole of STD I have previously written about. I would point such naysayers to what innovative and truly lean companies do to reward perfect attendance. Did you know Toyota employees with perfect attendance can win a free car?

The reality is that sick days are an entitlement. You do not manage entitlements. You do limit their scope and put into place incentives to drive the behavior you are seeking. It helps to have a benefit design aligned with your business objectives and that's precisely where our firm assists employers. We will assist this employer with a design that not only lowers costs but eliminates benefits gaps.

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