Belfast Telegraph

Civil Service sickness at five year high in Northern Ireland - what's average rate of absence?

By Claire Williamson

Civil Service sickness is on the rise in Northern Ireland, new figures show.

Sickness is at its highest level for the past five years with the average worker now missing more than a fortnight at work.

For the year 2016/2017 the average worker took 12.4 days off - an increase from 11.7 days in the previous year.

The figures were released in the 17th annual report on sickness absence by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency

The 12.4 days lost per staff year represented 5.6% of the available working days in 2016/2017 which equates to an estimated £32.7m of lost production - the same as in 2015/2016. This is equivalent to around 3.8% of the total NICS pay bill in 2016/2017.

Around one in eight staff had at least one spell of long-term absence lasting around three months on average.

This was the highest level of long-term absence observed in the last five years, and accounted for more than three quarters of all working days lost.

Anxiety, Stress, Depression, Other Psychiatric Illnesses was the reason that accounted for the greatest proportion of working days lost (35.2%) during 2016/2017.

Work-related stress accounted for a third of the days.

While just under half (49.5%) of staff had no recorded absence in 2016/2017.

Across the different departments the level of absence varied from 7.9 days for the Executive Office to 15.3 days for the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice was the only department to record lower absence levels this year compared to last.

According to the report, the absence level for females (14.7 days) remained higher than that for males (10.4 days) with over half of this difference being due to "gender-specific conditions".

Staff who had been in post for under two years had a much lower level of sickness absence (3.0 days) than staff who had been employed for two years or more (12.6 days).

Around three quarters of the staff employed for under two years would have been on probationary terms and conditions, which would include the more stringent management of sickness absence.

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