Saturday 23 September 2017

Strict rules for public sector sick leave to save over €6m

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

THE Government will save more than €6m a year if it succeeds in rolling out a new plan to slash sick leave by 10pc across the civil service.

Stringent new rules have been drawn up to reduce absences in departments and state agencies after a report revealed a doubling in sick leave since the 1980s.

Almost 10pc of the annual €63.9m sick leave bill is made up of uncertified absences, according to the latest figures supplied by the Department of Finance.

The plan to cut sick leave was put forward by civil service managers in their recently submitted reform action plan under the Croke Park deal.

It sets a target to reduce sick leave by 10pc before the end of 2011 and says each department and office must manage sick leave better.

"More effective management of sick leave provision will result in greater productivity," the plan -- seen by the Irish Independent -- states.

The cut will be achieved by implementing new regulations set out in a Department of Finance circular.

It instructs managers to carry out more intensive monitoring of absenteeism, including quarterly and yearly analysis of sick leave patterns.

Public servants could face disciplinary action if they flout the rules. They could also be demoted, or have their contract terminated, if they are still in a probationary period in their job after being hired.



Measures

The new measures include:



  • Officers will not be promoted if they took more than 56 days sick leave or more than 25 sick absences in four years.
  • Line managers must monitor a sick officer's progress towards recovery, which the circular says, "should not be construed as harassment".
  • Officers must contact their manager with updates on their recovery and managers should actively encourage them to consider a gradual return to work.
  • If an absence lasts more than two working days, a medical cert must be submitted. This does not automatically entitle the officer to sick leave, paid or unpaid, which is decided by the head of the department.
  • An absence of more than four weeks is considered long term. The Chief Medical Officer decides if a confidential doctor's report is needed.
  • Uncertified sick leave can be withdrawn if absences are seen to be too frequent, or more than seven a year.
  • Sick Leave Review Meetings will be held if an absence rate or pattern is of concern, whether certified or uncertified.


According to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General last year, the average employee was absent for more than 11 days a year, almost twice the average in the private sector, and almost 60pc of staff took sick leave.

The average number of days each employee was out sick was highest in the Property Registration Authority, at almost 16 days a year, and lowest in the Department of the Taoiseach, at five and a half days.

Monday was the day people were most frequently sick.

Irish Independent

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