At the same time as US car makers are scaling back employee and retiree health care benefits, Swedish truck maker Scania is starting a two-year trial giving employees' families access to the company's own health care service six days a week.

"One prerequisite for the individual's well-being is that his or her family is also well, and we hope that with this measure we will have employees who are both happier and healthier," said Scania director of human resources Magnus Hahn in a statement.

The trial is part of Scania's drive to reduce poor health. In the company's operations in Sweden, where just over half the 12,000 employees are 'blue-collar' workers, sickness absenteeism has halved over the past decade from 9 to 4.5%.

"The 'good-health rating', as we prefer to call it, shows that this positive trend continued in 2005 too. The extended family health care trial will hopefully result in a further improvement," added Hahn.

The extended corporate health care service in Södertälje for Scania employees and family members starts on 11 January. The offer covers the employee and his or her closest family members.

The clinic, which will initially be open from Monday to Saturday, has resources similar to those available at a Swedish community health-care clinic.

"With opening hours that are more generous than those of many district health centres, we can offer our employees and their families faster and easier access to medical care, which in turn means increased security and welfare," added Hahn.

The clinic is part of Scania's corporate health care programme which encompasses resources for health care services, nursing services and rehabilitation, along with expertise on working-environment and psychosocial issues. A total of about 100 people work in Scania's health-care operation, about half of them in-house.

In Södertälje, Scania also provides health care facilities for local authority employees.

According to insurance company Folksam's annual health index, Scania's sickness absenteeism rate of 4.8% in Sweden is among the lowest in the country's engineering industry sector. Among Scania's 30,000 employees world-wide, sickness absenteeism last year was 3.5%.