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Councils to dock pay of staff on uncertified sick leave

LOCAL authority workers who take more than seven days uncertified sick leave a year won't be paid for the extra days they miss.

Under new rules, staff have finally been told they will lose a whole day's pay every time they take time off over and above the limit without producing a doctor's cert.

Council staff are generally allowed to take up to two days uncertified sick leave back-to-back and a total of seven days in a year -- after which their pay is docked if they don't have a cert.

The previous deduction was just one-seventh of their weekly salary for every day over the limit. This has now been changed to one-fifth of weekly salary, or the equivalent of a day's pay.

The plans being rolled out across the country came to light after the Irish Independent revealed council staff were taking an average two weeks' sick leave a year. In some councils, the average was almost three weeks.

The amount of time allowed for certified and uncertified sick leave may also be cut across the public sector under government plans.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin promised an "overhaul" in the Budget . The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government said the clawback measure was being rolled out in all local authorities to cut the cost of absenteeism. A spokesman said each local authority was drawing up its own system to dock the wages of staff who take excessive uncertified leave.

"This is one of a range of reforms and standardisations which have been agreed with management and unions under the Croke Park agreement," he said. "It is a matter for each local authority to make the arrangements in respect of the clawback."

A revised action plan by the department's secretary general Geraldine Tallon says sick leave guidelines have been updated to include the measure.

The Irish Independent revealed that staff in some local authorities take an average of almost three weeks' sick leave a year.

The average was 14.5 days across the sector, almost twice the levels in the private sector.

However, Director of Services at Wexford County Council Adrian Doyle, whose local authority was among the worst offenders, said the average was "misleading" as it was mainly due to long-term illness.

"Long-term illnesses accounted for a large portion of lost days," he said.

"These illnesses were of a serious nature and have resulted in 17 employees subsequently retiring.

"The impression that each employee has taken 14.5 days is misleading. A large majority of the staff did not take any sick leave in 2010."

Irish Independent