Gardaí in rural areas much more likely to call in sick

Over half on sick leave were out for a month or more with one garda on leave for 10 years

There were  significant regional variations in the number of gardaí on sick leave in 2017, according to a report from the Garda Inspectorate.

There were significant regional variations in the number of gardaí on sick leave in 2017, according to a report from the Garda Inspectorate.

 

The average garda was out sick for over a week in 2017, resulting in a €13.3 million loss to the exchequer.

There were also significant regional variations in the number of gardaí on sick leave with one district reporting nine per cent of its members absent due to illness at any one time, according to a highly critical Garda Inspectorate report.

Garda divisions in rural areas are far more likely to have higher numbers of members out sick than those in urban areas. There is also a correlation between Garda manpower in a division and the rate of sick leave.

“The eight divisions with the highest proportion of members on sickness absence were rural divisions, which also have some of the lowest overall numbers of members,” the Policing in Local Communities report stated.

The proportion of gardaí out sick ranged from nine per cent in one division to two per cent in another. The average sick leave rate was five per cent at any one time.

The average garda spent 6.6 days on sick leave in 2017. The Inspectorate noted the rate has decreased significantly since 2013 when the average was 10.7 days.

The decrease came about immediately after the introduction of regulations which limited paid sick leave entitlements across the public service.

Civilian members of the Garda are almost twice as likely to be on sick leave. They averaged 11.9 days each in 2017; a rate higher than both the civil service (10.1 days) and the public service (8.8 days).

On one day last May, 544 gardaí were on sick leave, over half of them for a month or longer. Sixteen per cent were on sick leave for more than a year and one per cent for more than five years.

One garda has been on sick leave for ten years.

“For divisions with high sickness levels and lower numbers of members, the absence of a significant proportion of members at any one time presents a considerable challenge to maintaining effective policing services,” the Inspectorate noted.

The Inspectorate recommended that the Garda develop new policies and procedures to manage the numbers on sick leave.

Under-performance

The 300-page report also found problems with how underperforming gardaí are dealt with. It stated many supervisors reported they were the subject of bullying complaints when they tried to address underperformance.

Underperformers are often given less complex tasks such as collating evidence instead of investigating crimes.

“This is accommodating underperformance and is not dealing with the individual,” the Inspectorate stated.

It also raised concerns about the Performance, Accountability and Learning Framework (PALF) which is being adopted by the Garda to address underperformance. It noted this model does not allow gardaí to be fired for being bad at their jobs.

“The Inspectorate believes that the Garda Síochána needs to develop unsatisfactory performance procedures to deal with low productivity, failure to meet standards, negative or apathetic attitude and breaches of the Code of Ethics.”

The latest Inspectorate report was requested before the establishment of the Commission on the Future of Policing which issued its findings in September. The two reports cover much of the same ground and both emphasise the need to increase community policing.

The Inspectorate found that communities have noticed a decrease in Garda visibility in recent years and in many areas the numbers of community gardaí has fallen by 50 per cent. Some areas have no dedicated community gardaí.

It also found the Garda is well behind other police forces in the use of technology and allocation of resources and is unclear how many members it needs to police the State.

The publication of the report was welcomed by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan on Friday who said he was referring it to Commissioner Drew Harris for consideration.