Tuesday 27 June 2017

FAS staff don't like Mondays as 'sick day' bill hits €13m

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

ABSENTEEISM at troubled state training agency FAS has cost taxpayers €13.3m in the past three years -- with most calling in sick on Mondays.

A new internal FAS report seen by the Irish Independent reveals how sick staff cost the agency €4.39m last year, €4.7m in 2008 and €4.2m in 2007.

The figures correspond with a time when staff morale had been badly damaged due to a series of spending and procurement scandals involving leading figures at the agency. On average each member of staff took 9.5 sick days last year.

Over the course of the year some 22,466 sick days were taken, out of a workforce of 2,300.

The report said the absenteeism was leading to more costs through increased overtime and the need to recruit additional staff.

It also said the levels of absenteeism were contributing to decreased output, lack of efficiency, loss of quality of service, low morale and lack of commitment.

Another worrying, indirect cost of absenteeism was the proliferation of an absence mentality. "It is important to state clearly that from an organisational perspective, there is no acceptable level of absenteeism," the report stated.

Despite the huge loss to the taxpayer detailed in the report, FAS staff still have a better record than many at other state bodies.

During the course of last year its absenteeism rate was 4.73pc, which was around average for the public sector.

Worse offenders included the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which had an absenteeism rate of 7.14pc; the Department of Foreign Affairs on 5.62pc; and the HSE on 5.52pc. But in the private sector the average worker took just six days' sick leave last year.

Management

The FAS report found its staff were more likely to miss work on Mondays, when 42pc of sick days were taken. The level of absenteeism decreased as the week wore on, with 26pc of sick days being taken on Tuesdays, 19pc on Wednesdays,11pc on Thursdays and 2pc on Fridays.

Those in management jobs had the highest attendance levels, while the staff grade whose members were most likely to call in sick were general assistants. Women were also found more likely to take sick days than men.

The 31 to 35 age group had the highest level of sick days, while those aged 61 to 65 years were least likely to call in sick.

The area within FAS with the highest level of absenteeism was the employment services division, followed by community services, services to businesses and human resources.

The highest absentee rate was in the north-west (5.53pc) while the lowest was in the west (3.27pc).

Irish Independent

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