Cost of public sector sick leave up 20 per cent since 2015

Statistics published on Tuesday also show savings have been made since 2014 reforms

In the security sector, the total cost of sick leave in the Defence Forces increased by 17 per cent from €8.7 million in 2017 to €10.2 million last year, while, in the Garda, the total cost increased by almost 20 per cent from €13.3 million to €15.9 million. Photograph: iStock

In the security sector, the total cost of sick leave in the Defence Forces increased by 17 per cent from €8.7 million in 2017 to €10.2 million last year, while, in the Garda, the total cost increased by almost 20 per cent from €13.3 million to €15.9 million. Photograph: iStock

 

The overall cost of public sector sick leave to the Exchequer has increased by 20 per cent since 2015, figures from the Department of Public Expenditure show.

The Department published the 2018 Sick Leave Statistics for the Public Service on Tuesday, which provide figures and trends in relation to more than 274,000 full-time equivalents across the public service and the civil service.

Overall, the total cost of public sector sick leave last year was €381.5 million, which was up almost 12 per cent on 2017 when it was €341.5 million, and up almost a fifth compared with 2015 when it amounted to €317.9 million.

However, significant savings have also been made since reforms in 2014 which effectively halved entitlements. The Department estimated there had been a cumulative saving of €156 million since 2013.

Furthermore, the rate of sick leave across the service has fallen by 0.1 per cent from 4.3 per cent to 4.2 per cent last year, while the number of days lost to sick leave per full-time equivalent has decreased from 9.5 days to 9.2 days.

There were year-on-year increases last year across a number of sectors, including health where costs rose by 11 per cent from €168.9 million in 2017 to €187.9 million.

In the security sector, the total cost of sick leave in the Defence Forces increased by 17 per cent from €8.7 million in 2017 to €10.2 million last year, while, in the Garda, the total cost increased by almost 20 per cent from €13.3 million to €15.9 million.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said savings in the cost of sick leave across the public service “continue to be made” but that further work “needs to be done” to reduce the impact on the Exchequer.

“The rising associated salary costs of sick leave as a result of pay restoration initiatives and a growing public sector workforce have seen a substantial overall rise in sick leave costs for the majority of the public sector in 2018,” he said.

“This Department is continuing to collaborate closely with sectoral management and staff representatives from across the public service to work towards improving the effectiveness of the operation of the scheme.

“In addition to this, management in each of the sectors must focus on the management of absenteeism, and policies designed to assist employers in managing cases of prolonged or frequent absence proactively.”

The Department of Public Expenditure said a number of initiatives have been undertaken in the civil service to address absence issues, including revised policies on discipline, underperformance, and management of attendance.

In addition, research and data on the underlying drivers of absence in the sector has been examined. Work is ongoing on the development of enhanced reporting tools on absence for line managers and human resources personnel, the Department added.