CPS defends its poor staff sickness absence record

The
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has defended the sickness absence record of its
staff, after it was heavily criticised by unions and an MP.

The
CPS, which employs around 7,000 staff, came under fire last week after it was
revealed that more than 679 of its employees were absent from work with
long-term sickness in 2002.

However,
the CPS’s HR director Angela O’Connor said the figure represented a reduction
on previous years and was broadly in line with elsewhere in government.

Figures
show that around 9.7 per cent of CPS employees had been on long-term sick leave
in 2002, defined as 20 days or more away from work. But this figure masks a
decrease in long-term absence compared to the previous two years, when the
figures were 10.1 per cent and 10.2.

"Our
sickness absence figures are a cause for concern, but they are similar to other
government departments and the trend for long-term absence shows a steady
decrease," said O’Connor.

She
said a range of initiatives introduced over the past three years had helped to
reduce the figures. These include the creation of an in-house team looking at
stress awareness, more training literature for staff and managers, and a
24-hour staff assistance helpline.

"We
want to see a significant reduction in these figures in the long term. We’ve
been managing sickness absence in line with government guidelines and this has
shown a reduction," she added.

The
CPS has already launched an investigation to identify areas of concern and the
results will be used to monitor the cause, duration and geography of illness
within the service.

Once
the information has been gathered it will be fed into a sickness absence
management project to help identify areas for further action and improved
training for line managers.

By
Ross Wigham

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