Thursday 23 November 2017

Workers in public sector take more sick days

Fiach Kelly

ALMOST all major public sector employers have higher absenteeism rates than the private sector, an Irish Independent investigation has found.

Of 60 public sector bodies surveyed -- including ministerial departments, county and city councils, the HSE, Fas and RTE -- 47 have higher absenteeism rates than the national average for the private sector.

The average private sector firm loses 3.5pc of its working year to certified and uncertified sick leave.

The absenteeism rate refers to the proportion of days lost as a percentage of the total number of days available to work in a year.

The rate in the Department of Social and Family Affairs -- the department responsible for getting people back to work -- is more than double the average in the private sector and is among the worst in the major sectors of the public service.

Apart from the Irish Prison Service, support staff within the HSE are the worst offenders among State employees.

The porters, carers, cleaners and caterers within the health service lost 8pc of their working year to sick leave.


But there were significant variations within the health service, with medical and dental staff recording an absenteeism rate of 0.93pc, nursing staff recording 5.69pc and "other patient and client care" recording a rate of 7pc.

Earlier this month, the HSE's human resources director Sean McGrath warned that there was no alternative but to change work practices and reduce absenteeism, to help slash hundreds of millions in pay costs.

The Irish Independent investigation came in the wake of news that the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) had launched an investigation into civil service absenteeism due to concerns that some civil servants are "swinging the lead" or "taking duvet days".

Of the 34 county and city councils across the country, 28 have absenteeism rates of more than 3.5pc.

A handful of public sector organisations -- including RTE and Failte Ireland -- have significantly lower rates than the private sector. Galway County Council, Clare County Council and Wicklow County Council also have lower absenteeism rates, as has the Courts Service of Ireland.

Cavan County Council, Meath County Council, Westmeath County Council and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs were all on a par with the private sector average of 3.5pc.

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources could not provide an annual absenteeism rate as it was only established following the formation of the current Government in June 2007.

Other public sector bodies surveyed, including gardai, teachers, FAS, the Revenue Commissioners and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) -- all had higher rates.

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