Sick leave in Northern Ireland civil service
by Paul Gosling
Sickness absenteeism in the civil service is more than a third higher in Northern Ireland than in Britain, the Northern Ireland Audit Office has found. Each Northern Ireland civil servant takes on average 13.7 days off ill a year, against 10 days in the rest of the UK.
The cost of absenteeism in the NICS is £25m annually, says the report. Over 70% of days lost are part of long-term absences lasting over 20 days, with stress-related and other psychiatric and psychological illnesses the most common causes. The absenteeism rate among women civil servants is twice that of Britain. John Dowdall, Northern Ireland’s Comptroller and Auditor General, said the problem was not being adequately addressed by senior management. Waiting times of over two months to see the occupational health service were too long, he said.
John Corey, general secretary of the main Northern Ireland public sector union Nipsa, said that short-term sickness levels were consistent with those of the private sector and that the problem lay with long-term, stress-related, illnesses. He said that the causes of this must be addressed, rather than managers using what he called “big stick policy and procedures”.