Employee benefits (1/7)

Birthday leave for employees at Menuiserie Fellens

Managing director Paul Bisenius and the twenty or so employees of Menuiserie Fellens who are entitled to a bonus day off during the week of their birthday. Photos: Menuiserie Fellens. Montage: Maison Moderne

Managing director Paul Bisenius and the twenty or so employees of Menuiserie Fellens who are entitled to a bonus day off during the week of their birthday. Photos: Menuiserie Fellens. Montage: Maison Moderne

To retain talented staff or recruit new employees, some companies don’t hesitate to offer their employees extra benefits. This summer, seven of them took stock of the situation for Paperjam. In this edition, Menuiserie Fellens talks to us about its birthday leave.

A petition had called for this, but it did not reach the 4,500 signatures needed to hold a public debate on the subject. The Menuiserie Fellens did, however, and is giving its employees a day off for their birthday.

The concept: a day off for a cake

It doesn’t have to be on the day itself, but “more or less a week after the employee’s birthday,” sums up the company’s managing director, Paul Bisenius. “If a worker’s birthday falls during the collective holiday, they can take the day off the week they return or extend their holiday by one day.”

The day off comes with a “quid pro quo.” The employee celebrating his or her birthday will have to bring something for his or her colleagues: cake, croissants, etc. “This Friday, a worker who was celebrating his birthday on Monday will bring back some grilled meat. We’re not forcing anyone to spend a lot of money. He’ll buy two or three packets of meat and we’ll buy cases of beer,” Bisenius explains. The main aim is to “strengthen team spirit” among the twenty or so employees.

Having been in place for around a year, the opportunity has won over all the employees, according to the manager. “We have a good team, no one says ‘I don’t want to take part.’”

How much does it cost the company?

“If we take an extra 22 days’ holiday, it costs us between €3,000 and €3,500 a year.”

What does that bring?

Bisenius sees the added value of the measure in “the increased team spirit,” but also in the absenteeism rate. While it was between 2.34% and 2.96% from 2019 to 2020, the rate climbed to 6.39% in the first half of 2021, and to 8.64% in the second and 7.16% in the first half of 2022. Then, it fell back to 2.09% in the last six months of 2022. There are, however, many other factors that could have influenced these figures, both upwards and downwards.

What’s more, “people are motivated, like to do their job and do it faster.”

What conclusions can you draw from this?

“For the €3,000 to €3,500 we invest, the return is much greater.”

Other measures for well-being

An extra day off for an employee’s birthday is not the only measure the company has put in place to retain its workforce. “If someone needs a van at the weekend, we lend it to them. When fuel prices went up, we offered petrol cards to our staff.” Conversely, “I know that if I have an emergency on a Saturday evening, all I have to do is send a message and I’ll have several volunteers.”

In the longer term, the company is working on setting up a system where each employee can decide on his or her income and degree of flexibility. “It will be a kind of matrix. All employees will receive a list with different salaries: €3,000, €3,500... And numbers of days off: 25, 30, 35... With a number of points, which they can then place as they wish.” If they ‘use’ a lot of them in their salary, to earn as much money as possible, they will have less left over for holidays. On the other hand, someone who wants to work fewer hours a week will have fewer points for salary.

This system should not see the light of day for “another year,” according to the director. This will give time to work out the best way of achieving a “win-win” situation.

This article was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.