Public sector hit by highest absence

Employee absence levels in public sector organisations are 55% higher than those experienced by the private sector employers.

According to the latest annual Confederation of British Industry/Axa Absence Survey, average absence levels across the public sector stood at nine days per employee for 2007, compared to 5.8 days in the private sector. The highest absence rates were found in health/social care services, where average absence was 12.6 days, and police and probation services with 9.9 days.

Last year, absence cost the UK economy £13.2 billion with the average employee taking almost seven days off sick. The survey also revealed that of the 172 million days lost in absence, more than one-in-ten is thought not to be genuine, which is estimated to cost the economy £1.6bn. Just under two-thirds (65%) of respondents said they believed staff were taking sick days to extend their weekend, 60% thought that fake sickness was used to extend holiday, and 34% said staff claimed to be sick to get time off on special days such as birthdays.

Susan Anderson, CBI director of HR policy, said: “Everyone agrees that sick people need time off work. But employers face two serious and expensive challenges, dealing with bogus sick days, and helping those with long-term illness return to work when they are fit to do so.”

Dudley Lusted, head of corporate healthcare development at Axa PPP Healthcare, added: “Short-term absence shouldn’t be an issue for employers who have a positive workplace culture where people are treated fairly and believe they have a future.”