Belfast Telegraph

'Phenomenal' number of Civil Service sick days higher than previously thought

By Michael Sheils McNamee

More sick days were taken in the Civil Service in 2016/2017 than previously thought, the discovery of a calculating error has shown.

The mistake was down to a group of staff who are not part of the Northern Irish Civil Service being included in the stats.

After this group was removed, the headline figure of an average 12.4 days lost on average due to sickness increases to 12.5 days.

This is a slight increase on the highest level of Civil Service absenteeism in almost a decade.

Figures released last month showed the figure of 12.4 (now 12.5) had been an increase on the 11.7 days lost to sickness on average in 2015/2016.

Based on a five-day working week, the 12.5 days equates to two-and-a-half weeks off work - the highest level since 2007/2008 when an average 12.9 days were lost per year.

In the update jointly released by the NI Department of Finance and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, the new figures show estimated production costs lost through sickness decreased slightly from £32.7 million to £32.6 million.

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The section of the Civil Service website where the report on sickness absence should appear

The change mostly impacts the Department of Finance - with its average number of days lost through sickness increasing from 9.9 to 10 - but other departments may also have their figures impacted.

Responding after the original absenteeism information was released last month, TUV leader Jim Allister called for the Audit Office to investigate what he described as a "phenomenal" scale of sickness.

"I think it's very disturbing to see the trend going the wrong direction," he said.

"I think the scale of absenteeism is phenomenal, and when compared to the private sector it's totally out of control."

Last month's figures also showed just under half of all staff had no recorded absence for the 2016/2017 period, while one in eight had at least one long-term absence lasting around three months on average.

Anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illnesses were the reasons given for the largest proportion of working days lost.

A fully updated report on sickness absence in the Civil Service is due to released at the end of next week.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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