ABSENTEEISM in the health service rose sharply during one of the warmest summers on record, figures have revealed.
National rates were as high |as 4.83pc in August and 4.79pc for the first ten months of the year, despite the official target being set at 3.5pc.
And more staff were out on sick leave in sunny August than in chilly January – traditionally the worst month due to it being the cold and flu season.
Nearly 5,000 workers are |failing to turn up to hospitals and other agencies daily, |according to the figures.
It has emerged that three workers who were sacked for absenteeism are in the process of trying to get their jobs back. They are among eight former health employees who are challenging their sacking at the HSE Dismissal Appeals Committee.
Despite the worrying figures, the HSE insisted that absenteeism levels were medically certified and had showed “an upward trend since late 2012 when changes to self-certified leave were introduced”.
However, the level of daily |no-shows in the health service contrasts sharply with absenteeism rates in private industry, which stand at 2.5pc.
The HSE said: “Clearly in any employment there will always be staff that are unfit to come to work due to illness or injury.
“The nature of much of health service activity could |not countenance staff coming into the work-place if they |were ill or injured.”
But the study showed that those working in the provision of medical and dental services, such as doctors and nurses, have had consistently low |levels of absenteeism.
Meanwhile categories such as management, administration and support staff have remained reliably high.
However, from January |2014 onwards, there will be significant changes to existing paid sick leave systems.
In the main part, they will |see a halving of the paid sick leave arrangement from |previous schemes, on foot of |an engagement with public |sector unions in 2012.
And in addition to this, |a complete review of the |managing attendance policy and procedure is also to be |carried out in an attempt to reduce rates of leave.
The HSE’s national performance assurance report for |October said that the level of absenteeism at that point stood at 4.79pc, contrasted against a national target of 3.5pc.
“Annual absenteeism rates have been showing a gradual improvement from 2008 when it was recorded at 5.76pc,” the report added.
At the end of that month, |the HSE employed around 100,005 whole-time equivalent posts - meaning those people were either employed directly |or by agencies funded by the HSE. The target for the year end was 98,938.