Sick leave is a ‘way of life’ in DfT agencies

The Driving Standards Agency and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have been found to have average sickness absence levels in excess of 13 days per year and have been called upon to tighten up their sickness management by a Parliamentary watchdog.

According to the House of Commons’ Committee of Public Accounts’ 64th Report, Session 2006-2007, these two agencies, which employ over half of the staff within the Department for Transport, have such high absence levels because 25% of the staff in the two departments have taken more than ten days off due to sickness in 2006.

Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “Sick leave seems to be a way of life in the Driving Standards agency and the DVLA. On average, each employee is off sick for nearly three weeks each year.

“The rate of sick leave is principally down to relatively few members of staff on long-term sickness absence. The Department for Transport has recently roused itself to review such cases and crack down where appropriate. The two agencies should follow its example immediately.”

The report states that the main reasons for sickness absence in the two agencies are mental health and stress issues, caused by non-work related factors.

According to the report, managing absence had not been an priority for any of the businesses within the Department of Transport until recently, but most agencies have made a concerted effort to tackle sickness absence in the last 12 to 18 months.

A spokesperson from the Department for Transport said:†” Sickness rates in five of the eight DfT bodies are at or below the rates in comparable organisations in the public and private sectors. Where rates are higher, we are committed to making improvements, supporting those who are genuinely sick while also addressing any underlying causes. We are also improving procedures to help minimise absences and allow staff to return to work as quickly as possible, for example through better management training.”