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Learning English - Words in the News
02 May, 2005 - Published 12:00 GMT
Royal Mail prize for coming to work
Posting a letter

Britain's Royal Mail service says a plan to cut the number of sick days taken by its staff has been a great success. Workers are rewarded with prizes, including new cars, for turning up at work reliably. This report from Steve Jackson:

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In some countries, taking lots of days off work sick would get you fired and the idea of offering prizes for good attendance would be little more than a joke. But absenteeism has become a big problem in Britain, where the employment laws offer protection to sick workers, but don't enable employers to distinguish between the genuinely ill and those who are pretending.

Last year, British businesses lost more than twenty-two billion dollars because of workers taking days off sick. When the Royal Mail announced a scheme to enter reliable workers into a prize draw, it was greeted with some scepticism. But one year on, the company has proclaimed it a success. Thirty-seven Royal Mail workers have won a car for good attendance and thousands of others have been given vouchers allowing them to take cheap holidays.

Listen to the words

get you fired
be a reason for you to lose your job

someone who doesn't go to work or school when they should is an absentee. The noun absenteeism is the word for the problem of people not going to work or school.

to distinguish between
to tell the difference between

a scheme
a plan

a prize draw
a kind of competition. Originally people's names were put in a hat and a winner was 'drawn' out - which means a name was taken out of the hat and that person was the winner.

greeted with some scepticism
some people thought the plan was a bad idea

one year on
a year after something has happened, in this case, a year after the plan was started.

proclaimed it a success
said that the plan was working very well

pieces of paper that you can use to pay for certain things, in this case, holidays.

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