Belfast Telegraph

BBC NI staff took 5,000 sick days last year

By Adrian Rutherford

Staff at BBC Northern Ireland took almost 5,000 days off sick in the last year.

An average of eight days was lost per employee, new figures reveal.

Across the UK, Beeb staff missed an astonishing 91,992 days because of illness - costing licence fee payers £12.5m.

It means around 250 years' worth of working days were lost due to illness in just 12 months.

Figures released after a Freedom of Information request revealed staff at BBC Northern Ireland missed a total of 4,818 days in the 12 months to April - equivalent to 13 years.

The average number of days lost per person here was 7.9 - well above the average number of sick days across the BBC as a whole, which was 5.1.

It is also near double the UK average for the whole labour market which, according to the Office for National Statistics, in 2014 stood at 4.4 days.

Based on the £12.5m UK-wide cost of absenteeism, the Northern Ireland sickness bill would work out at around £654,000.

The BBC said its sickness absence had dropped by 14% in the last five years.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the BBC's sickness rates must be fully investigated.

"People will be concerned that they are not getting value for money," he said.

"If we take the UK average, which is about five days, the Northern Ireland figure is about 50% higher. That must be a concern for the BBC.

"If there was higher than average sickness absence in a large company you would expect to see measures put in place to try and reduce it. Whether sickness absence is falling or not, a rate this high needs to be examined."

TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive John O'Connell said: "It's good news that the number of sick days at the Beeb is coming down, but the numbers are still far higher than the national average.

"When licence fee payers are threatened with prison if they do not pay their bill, it's crucial that managers in Northern Ireland cut the near-5,000 days taken off sick and make sure that all cases are genuine."

Staff at BBC Wales missed a total of 10,049 days - 8.2 per employee. At BBC Scotland the figure was 6.8 days - 7,826 in total.

The Beeb employs more than 19,000 people and has a ­massive £990m wage bill.

The corporation said the number of sick days was decreasing.

"The total sick days this year has fallen by 14% compared to 2010 and the employee average (5.1%) is broadly in line with the national average," it said.

"We take the health and wellbeing of our staff seriously, like any responsible employer, and provide a number of health-related support schemes."

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