Concerns Raised Over Sickness Absence In NI Public Sector

Public sector leaders must be empowered to address levels of sickness absence in the Northern Ireland public sector, Alliance MLA John Blair has said, following a report on attendance in central and local government.

The report from the Audit Office found the Northern Ireland Civil Service lost almost 13 days per employee to sickness in 2019-20, an increase of more than 10 per cent over the past five years. Additionally, local Councils lost an average of 14 days per employee in 2018-19, while some lost as many as 17 days per year. The Audit Office warned sickness absence is placing a strain on services here.

"The figures published today are a real cause for concern," said South Antrim MLA Mr Blair.
News Image
"Long-term absences account for the majority of working days lost in both the Civil Service and local government, and much of that is due to mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression. The changes to working life imposed by COVID-19 will have exacerbated these issues for many, and there needs to be a strategy right across the public sector to address how mental health is being cared for in the workplace.

"Today's report calls for the creation of a strong attendance culture, prevention and early intervention to reduce long-term absence, and a long-term sickness absence strategy to address the issues highlighted. Alliance fully supports these proposals, but they will need strong leadership within the public sector to make them a reality. It is absolutely crucial the First and Deputy First Minister appoint a new Head of the Civil Service, so these long-standing issues can start to be addressed."

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

28 May 2021
Call For Urgent Meeting To Address Waiting List Crisis
The SDLP is calling for an urgent meeting with the Finance and Health Ministers after further details of the extent of the waiting list crisis have been published. MLAs Cara Hunter and Matthew O'Toole said that this is the biggest crisis facing people in Northern Ireland and it must be the most urgent priority for political leaders.
23 April 2013
Sickness Absence In NI Public Sector Costs Economy £149m
The cost of sickness absence across the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the health and education sectors was estimated at £149 million in 2010-11 - £30 million for the Civil Service, £73 million for health trusts and £46 million for the education sector, according to the Audit Office.
15 December 2005
Minister welcomes fall in Civil Service sickness levels
The Civil Service has published an analysis of sickness absence during 2004/2005, which shows a reduction on the previous year. The report for 2004/2005, the sixth annual report, analyses sickness absence statistics for non-industrial staff in Northern Ireland government departments.
16 February 2004
Pilot project aims to improve public sector
A pilot project has been launched today which aims to improve capacity across the public service to deliver effective, efficient and quality services for the general public.
26 November 2012
Minister Disappointed At Decision On Public Service Pension Reform
Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has today made clear his disappointment that the Executive has failed to agree to the use of a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) that would allow for the reform of public service pensions in Northern Ireland.