30/10/2013

Civil Servants Average 10 Days' Sick Leave

Staff in the Northern Ireland Civil service took on average over ten days each of sick leave over the period 2012/13, indicating an increase on the previous year.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) today published the report 'Sickness Absence in the Northern Ireland Civil Service 2012/2013'.

The headline absence figure for 2012/2013 was 10.6 days, up from 10.1 days in the previous year and short of the annual target of 9.5 days.

While more than half of staff (52.3%) had no recorded absence, over one in ten (10.4%) were absent on average for around three months, the report said.

These long-term absences accounted for 70.7% of the total working days lost.

All Departments experienced increased levels of absence this year, apart from DOE and OFMDFM.

The level of absence ranged from 7.8 days in OFMDFM to 12.9 days in DOJ. The biggest contribution to DOJ’s absence level was made by Prison Grade staff who were absent for an average of 16.1 days, down from 17.0 days in 2011/2012.

The main reason for absence was noted as Anxiety/Stress/ Depression/Other Psychiatric Illnesses.

The proportion of working days lost due to illnesses of this type was 29.8%, almost one third of which were due to work related stress.

The level of absence was lowest (7.7 days) for staff aged 16-24 and highest for staff aged 55+ (12.0 days).

Older staff tended to have fewer absences, but when they were sick the illnesses tended to be of longer duration.

The absence level of females (12.6 days) was substantially higher than that for males (8.8 days).

It remained higher (11.2 days) even when Pregnancy Related Disorders were taken into account.

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

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.

"I am satisfied however that this reverse in trend does not reflect any dilution in the focus across NI Departments to tackle the sickness absence problem. Managing attendance and reducing sick absence is a key priority for departments, and clearly our work must continue and indeed intensify in some areas to ensure that the targets which are set out in the Programme for Government are achieved.

"It’s encouraging to note that over 50% (52.3%) of our staff had no recorded periods of sickness absence."

(IT/MH)

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