Opinion: Lifestyle

POSTED: 02/10/12 2:18 PM

Here is a thought for our labor unions to chew on. Employers in the Netherlands want the option to call employees that live an unhealthy lifestyle to account. More than half of the employers in small and medium enterprises say that they want the possibility to fire employees that stick to an unhealthy lifestyle and who report sick on a regular basis as a result of this. This opinion stems from a survey that was presented yesterday at a seminar about doing business in a healthy way.

One example is the transport company Connexxion. The company would love to fire bus drivers that are too fat or who smoke and who report sick regularly.

“If people intentionally live unhealthy and report sick regularly, we as the employer ought to have the option for harsh measures, a director for the company told a reporter of the Algemeen Dagblad in Rotterdam.

Employees that are sick regularly ought to be obliged to take part in fitness- and anti smoking programs. The ultimate measure against unwilling employees ought to be dismissal.

Predictably, employee councils and unions strongly disagree with the company’s plans.

The seminar was organized by health care insurer Achmea. It claims that the positive effects of health and fitness programs are significant. Earlier surveys have shown that organizations that shoot for sustainable employment of their workers score better in fields like customer satisfaction and productivity. They staff members are also better equipped to deal with stress.

We understand that unions and employee councils have a hard time swallowing this concept. But let’s face it: this is about taking responsibility. Employees sign labor contracts usually on the condition that there is no impediment that prevents them from doing the job for which they were hired, and for which the employer is expected to pay them every month.

We know from endless research in many different countries that the percentage of alcoholics in any population is somewhere between 2 and 5 percent. A company with 100 employees has therefore on average) 2 to 5 alcoholics on the payroll. That does not have to be a problem – quite some heavy drinkers function just fine – but when it does become a problem, for instance because such employees repeatedly make costly mistakes, show up late or not at all for work, or report sick every Monday morning, should then the employer not have the right to demand that the employee changes his lifestyle?

Employers care about their personnel in more ways than one. Companies invest in people by training them for their job; as they become more experienced, their value for the company goes up. Replacing experienced staff is costly and there will come a moment in time when employers start wondering about the usefulness of workers whose unhealthy lifestyle rubs off in a negative way on their performance in the office.

So while we think that employers ought to stick to best practices by offering their employees a safe working environment, employees have their own responsibility. If they refuse to do that, this choice is theirs, but they cannot expect that irresponsible behavior will remain forever without consequences.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Lifestyle by

Comments are closed.