Good-bye AWP: Supporting attendance and wellness in a new way

Thanks to the tremendous participation in the Attendance & Wellness Promotion (AWP) program redesign survey and focus groups, we have a better understanding of your experiences and ideas for attendance and wellness. Overall, we heard that the AWP program was trying to be all things to all people, which too often made it ineffective and insensitive to your needs.

We want to create a workplace culture where we care for each other, learn, and deliver the best care to our patients, clients and residents. With your involvement, we know we can promote attendance and support wellness in a new way that works for all of us.

What we heard from you          

A working group made up of frontline employees, union, leaders and HR representatives—led by Dr. Stacy Sprague, Executive Director of Employee Wellness—has analyzed over 300 written survey submissions and input from 14 focus group sessions across VCH. This is what we heard:

  • 69% of you view the AWP program negatively. You believe it encourages people to come to work sick out of fear, and it needs to align with the Enhanced Disability Management Program (EDMP). You said a better approach would be to have meetings with your manager, not an HR advisor. You also want attendance matters separated from wellness discussions. For example, staff with chronic conditions or work-related injuries should not be in an attendance program but should receive supportive services to help them manage their health.
  • 23% of you said the AWP program is influential in reducing sick time and it identifies people who need support.
  • 7% of you feel neutral about the program, but largely believe it doesn’t focus on wellness.

Your ideas and suggestions for a new approach

You shared many great ideas, and four themes emerged from your feedback:

  1. Create a different, more individualized attendance approach: Use a different style for attendance meetings, acknowledge that some areas across VCH have a higher likelihood of staff getting sick, and offer an individualized, supportive approach that recognizes grief, disability, mental health, parents, those in a caregiving role with elders, and those with chronic conditions.
  2. Build a healthy, supportive work environment: Staff want to talk to their manager about their attendance or wellness, yet we recognize that our managers need to be supported, too. We’ll work with managers to explore what they need e.g. training, timely access to information such as sick team data, clear process for connecting staff to appropriate wellness services.
  3. Support employee health and well-being: Offer more timely self-care supports (more EFAP/Employee Wellness counselling and EDMP) as well as incentives and rewards for good attendance. Also, set clear guidelines to support staff returning to work after an illness or injury.
  4. Promote a workplace culture of wellness: Offer a wellness program that empowers staff or teams to promote health and how to be and stay well in their workplace.

Recognize potential drivers of sick time

We know that some people call in sick when they’re not sick and there are many reasons why. While the scope of the AWP redesign is focused on attendance management, you asked us to consider: flexible schedules, self-scheduling, different staffing models (more casuals, part-time staff and job sharing), span of leadership (how many staff report to one manager), backfill or break relief lines, and flexible benefits. We heard you and will look at these important drivers that influence sick time as future initiatives.

Next steps

Based on your feedback and the working group’s recommendations, our next steps are to:

  1. Close the AWP program and replace it with a set of clear and transparent attendance management guidelines.*
  2. Establish working groups with frontline staff and managers to develop and implement new ideas in support of the four themes that emerged through feedback (see below).

*Sick time will continue to be accrued, tracked and managed on an individual basis until the new attendance management guidelines are rolled out within the next three to six months. If you have any questions, please have a conversation with your manager.

Join a working group and make a difference

These working groups will be tasked with designing more effective strategies and approaches. We expect to roll out the first recommendations this summer.  We will keep you informed by communicating any new guidelines, processes, programs and supports to all staff.

  • Attendance Management Working Group: To develop a new, individualized approach that involves the manager as the point person (not HR), with attendance management guidelines and transparent criteria.
  • Manager Support Working Group: To develop new training, coaching, mentoring, supports and referrals for managers to be able to separately and more effectively help employees.
  • Employee Health and Well-being Working Group: To develop more effective ways for employees to get the right support for their health and well-being by the right person, at the right time.
  • Wellness Program Working Group: To develop a VCH wellness program, wellness promotion and preventive wellness strategies.

If you are interested in joining one of the working groups, please contact

Stay tuned as we continue to work together to develop better programs and processes to support your health and wellness. We welcome your questions and feedback.

  1. Mary Ackenhusen

    Thanks everyone for your encouraging comments that tell me we’re headed in the right direction. VCH is full of caring, compassionate and passionate people – I want VCH to feel like a caring organization filled with caring people. We’ll keep listening to staff to make this come true!

    Mary Ackenhusen
    President and CEO

    April 12, 2018
  2. Marlies

    This sounds like a step in a positive direction. Though it understandable that staff with young kids or working with immuno- compromised patients and personal health issues may require more sick days, it is never a bad thing to provide positive incentives. Taking care of ourselves (and subsequently our colleagues and patients) is a priority in health care!

    April 10, 2018
  3. Lillian Tse

    Thank you for taking the time to communicate with the frontline staff, and above all, listening to us. I’ve worked in different departments both in Acute and Communities. What I’ve learned is that: there will always be people taking advantage of the system. However, they are the minority. The majority of us are honest and expected to be respected for being honest. Flexible work scheduling will be a good way to help achieve work-life balance of your staff. When it come to flexibility, there should not be one set of blanket criteria applies to the entire organization. It won’t work. But instead, individual manager can set up the criteria that’s suitable to the unit’s own work condition and patient demands.

    April 9, 2018
  4. Lori Keating

    I am anxiously awaiting to see if you are truly sincere in putting forth these positive changes within the programs. My experience with both programs has been very unpleasant to say the least, as has many of my co-workers. There will always be those who take advantage of their sick time, etc, however punishing those who are not is far worse than allowing those who do to carry on doing so. Considering the environment we work in, one would expect there to be much more compassion, caring, understanding and support, rather than harsh judgement. Looking forward to positive change.

    April 9, 2018
  5. Ali

    I think rewarding good attendance is a mistake. Good attendance involves luck and circumstance. People with small children are more likely to get sick. Staff who work with immunocompromised patients are more likely to call in sick to protect their patients. I’m so glad the AWP is being revamped but rewarding good attendance is a mistake.

    April 6, 2018
  6. Rosemary

    Kudos for hearing us, for caring enough to be committed to change and willing to try something different that may work for all of us.

    April 6, 2018
  7. Lori Edwards

    I have emailed Eliza directly with interest in the Wellness Program Working Group.

    April 6, 2018
  8. s

    this is good to read. i have a chronic condition that i try to maintain and avoid pain. i am grown and know what to do to take care of myself to stay employed and positive yet when i ask my current supervisor for support, i do not get any. i have worked very hard to get out of the wheelchair i was in and to be able to support myself and be positive and i feel if i rolled in and asked her for help i would of got it but since she cannot see any visible signs of malady, though i explained i could provide a length hospital report to support my request. i cannot support myself on medical leave so i bought my own supports due to frustration. it appears mgr is more concerned about budget than her employees health and wellness. mgr training is MOST welcome!

    April 5, 2018