Sick leave for civil servants has risen to an average of two weeks a year with the Government missing its target of cutting absenteeism by a third, official figures show.
Civil servants on average took 10 sick days a year in 2003, up from 9.8 in 2002. Some 4.9 million working days were lost last year - the equivalent of 19,000 full-time posts - at a cost of £368m, according to the Cabinet Office.
The figures, compiled by consultancy Aon, provide embarrassing reading for the Government, which in 1998 set a target of cutting average sick leave to 7.2 days by 2003 – roughly in line with performance in the private sector.
Chancellor Gordon Brown has made making improvements in civil service efficiency the key to directing further cash to health and education – looking to find £20bn in savings from Whitehall efficiency over the next five years.
On average, staff at the Child Support Agency took 14 days of sick leave, the highest of any government department or agency.
Thirty-six per cent of civil servants took no sick days off at all and a further third between one and five days.