Belfast Telegraph

Sick civil servants 'cost £30m'

Sickness among civil servants has cost the economy more than £30 million in lost production, it has been revealed.

Last year workers took an average of 10.6 sick days, a rise on the 10.1 during the previous 12 months.

Stress, anxiety and depression were cited among the most common reasons given for the absences.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said: "This is very disappointing news given that for a number of years we have seen a steady downward trend in the level of sickness absence."

This is the second year in a row that the civil service has failed to meet its annual target of 9.5 days sick days, according to the new report by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

E ven though more than half (52.3%) of staff had no recorded absence, over one-in-ten (10.4%) employees missed around three months (60 days) due to sickness with long-term sickness accounting for 70.7% of the total working days lost.

Most Government departments, with the exception of the Department of Environment and the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), experienced a rise in sickness rates.

The level of absence ranged from 7.8 days in OFMDFM to 12.9 days in the Department of Justice (DoJ) where the largest contribution came from prison staff who missed an average of 16.1 days.

Women were off work substantially more (12.6 days) than men (8.8 days) and the rate remained higher even when pregnancy-related disorders were taken into account.

Workers aged 55 and over also missed around 12 days while those aged between 16 to 24 were absent for an average of 7.7 days. Older staff also tended to be off for longer periods.

Staff who had been in post for under two years had less than half the level of sickness absence (4.6 days) of workers who had been employed for two years or more (10.8 days).

The NISRA report said, as in previous years, the main reason for absence was "a nxiety/stress/depression/o ther psychiatric illnesses" with around a third ( 29.8%) due to work-related stress.

Union leaders said civil servants were struggling to cope with increasing workloads and wage cuts.

Bumper Graham, from public services union NIPSA, said: "It is hardly surprising when you consider the way in which public servants are being treated with additional work and attacks on their pensions. It is a very demoralised workforce.

"If they tried to deal with the underlying issues affecting public servants they would see an improvement."


From Belfast Telegraph