Non-standard rewards schemes Part I: Bonus annual leave on birthdays

by 07 Mar 2012

If your organisation provides a cake for employee birthdays, you may think you’ve got your bases covered … but think again. The new trend is to offer employees their birthday off as bonus annual leave.

As organisations are being forced to tighten their belts amid persistent economic uncertainty, and not even those in line for a promotion are guaranteed a pay rise, companies are turning to perks with less up-front costs to drum up employee engagement. Offering staff the opportunity to take a bonus day off in the month of their birthday is increasingly appearing in the list of benefits to sweeten the deal for new recruits, and likewise, retain staff already on the books.

Market research firm Iview, Queensland Country credit union, and Canon are all examples of organisations that offer their staff a bonus day off in the month of their birthday.

According to Aileen Cull, CEO of the 250-employee Queensland Country credit union, it makes good sense to offer the day off. She had continually observed employees planning annual leave on their birthday each year, and after seeking ways to improve employee recognition the company decided this was one initiative that everyone could easily benefit from. “It is a day that people value, and certainly the reaction has been great,” she said, adding that as some employees may not wish to take their actual birthday off work for whatever reason, the company gives two weeks leeway in terms of which actual day they take off.

Additional perks of any kind usually come with a price tag, and while offering additional leave obviously brings costs, Queensland Country found the benefits outweigh the expense. “It certainly does come at a cost, and we looked very closely to see if there was value there. At the end of the day what swayed us was that it is something that every one of our staff could participate in and be a part of,” says Hull.

The free birthday day off is a good example of a benefit that does not have any direct financial cost to the company. The downside is obviously that the employee has 5% or so less time in the month to complete tasks, but the real impact of this on the month’s overall productivity is likely to vary greatly across positions. For the car factory worker fitting bumpers onto cars, it’s almost certainly going to mean that 5% fewer bumpers are fitted. In this case, someone else may have to be paid overtime to make up the shortfall, and the company may suffer a real, albeit indirect, cost. For most white-collar or office jobs, however, employees taking advantage of a free day off for their birthdays are more likely to still achieve the same or a similar amount of work done for that month overall by putting in more effort on other days. In essence, then, the free birthday day off is going to work better for some roles and organisations than others.


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  • by James Reye 7/03/2012 6:59:49 PM

    While I've worked on every single birthday I've had, I can understand the cultural merit behind taking your birthday off.

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