The gap between the number of sick days taken in the private services sector and the public sector has reached a four-year high.
Average absence levels in the public sector stand at 10.3 days per employee per year compared to 6.8 days in private services sector, according to a survey of more than 1,000 organisations from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
Stress is one of the leading and growing causes of absence in the public sector, with around half of public sector organisations citing stress as a leading cause of long-term absence for non-manual workers.
Meanwhile, more than four in 10 public sector organisations said that their stress levels had increased in the past year. Absence levels were highest in local government and the health sector.
Ben Willmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “The high proportion of challenging public-facing roles in the public sector, such as police, healthcare, teaching, and social services contribute to the higher-than-average levels of absence.”
Willmott said there had been a tremendous amount of change in the public sector, with employees working in increasingly target-driven environments, which has been a major cause of stress.
“Employers must consult staff before making changes and involve them as much as possible to gain trust and commitment,” he said.
The highest absence levels are found in health (11.6 days per employee per year), food, drink and tobacco (11.2 days), care services (11.2 days), and local government (10.9 days).
And the cost of absence has risen to 601 per employee per year from 588 12 months earlier. However, the increase of 2.2% is smaller than the previous year, when absence costs rose by 3.7% year-on-year.