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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Quick -is it better to have sick employees come in and run the risk of spreading germs to co-workers or be short staffed? For many credit unions the answer has led to some creative solutions. Two years ago Hauppauge, New York-based People’s Alliance Federal Credit Union staffers were attacked by the stomach virus that wouldn’t go away. “People were coming in around the holidays with a stomach virus and it ran through the departments, but when it made its rounds around for the second time we literally started bombing the place with Lysol,” said People’s Alliance FCU Vice President of Human Resources Patty O’Connell, vice president of human resources. “Every day after everyone left the building our executive vice president and building manager would wipe down and spray doorknobs, phones, desks, keyboards, carpets – everything. That whole experience was an eye opener for us.” O’Connell says that now every department is fully stocked with Lysol wipes and if someone is sick they are encouraged to stay home. “If we feel people are sick enough to pass germs on, then we send them home,” said O’Connell. With employee health a priority, O’Connell says the policy has actually improved attendance. “We find that employees that stay home actually get well quicker and believe me it is better to just have that one person out than have 10 out at once,” said O’Connell. Employees at People’s Alliance FCU can carry over sick days from year to year. For those loyal staffers who refuse to call out sick, the $162 million credit union allows them to work from home or make up the time when possible. To resolve its attendance issues, Indianapolis-based Indiana Members Credit Union opted to help employees with their decision-making process by offering perfect attendance incentives. “The fact is that every business experiences some sort of attendance challenge and five years ago our CEO heard about some organizations offering incentive programs and we decided to try it,” said Donna Hasty, IMCU assistant vice president of credit union development. “And it has been such a complete success here and employees love it.” Every quarter the $702 million credit union places money into a fund, which will then be dispersed to those employees with perfect attendance for the quarter. Those employees’ names are also placed in a drawing for gift certificates to local restaurants and events. Attendance also factors heavily in the individual annual bonus program. “The employee response has been incredible,” said Hasty. “Now employees pay close attention to that fund and they think twice before calling in,” said Hasty. “We know how important it is to member service to have employees in daily and we just want to reward those individuals who are devoted to our members and serve as an example to their peers.” Five years ago employee absences were increasing at a rate of 7-10% a year, in the last quarter of 2002 77% of employees have perfect attendance. Throughout 2002, perfect attendance has averaged 71%. So what about the lingering doubt associated with all “sick time” – is the person really ill or do they just need a day off? A recent survey by Riverwoods, Illinois-based Human Resources Management/Consulting firm CCH Inc. finds that two-thirds of all unscheduled sick days are taken for reasons other than personal illness. In addition, the survey finds that the absences cost American employers an average of $789 per employee annually, which represents an all-time high since CCH began tracking workplace absences in 1990. According to CCH Survey Analyst Lori Rosen, it has become more acceptable to use sick days for personal needs. “One employee sees a co-worker take a sick day when they aren’t ill and get away with it. Then the next employee does it,” said Rosen. The survey finds that 33% of sick days taken in the past year were for personal illness, 24% for family issues, 21% for personal needs, 12% for stress, and 10% felt “entitled” to it. According to Rosen surveys show that workers who have the flexibility to care for their personal needs often have higher morale -so workplace flexibility is a simple solution to the problem. Not only that but “eliminating as many unscheduled absences as possible makes for smoother operating workplaces.” [email protected]

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