I agree with Stephen Moir that many public sector organisations manage absence very efficiently (Letters, Personnel Today, 8/15 August). However, it is also true that the public sector as a whole continues to have significantly higher absence levels than the private sector.
Of course, there are many reasons for this. Different workforce profiles in terms of age and gender between the sectors, the high proportion of challenging public-facing roles in the public sector, and the under-reporting of absence in the private sector, could all be part of the equation. But the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s annual absence management survey also found a difference in organisational culture between how absence is managed in both sectors.
Organisations in the public sector are less likely to refer to disciplinary procedures in absence policies less likely to have disciplined staff in relation to absence and less likely to have dismissed staff over absence in the past year.
Managing absence is a challenge for all employers. A balance must be struck between providing support and rehabilitation, and a robust absence management process, which uses disciplinary procedures where necessary. But our survey suggests that many public sector organisations are still struggling to get this balance right.
It is in the interest of everybody – employers, staff, trade unions and taxpayers – that high levels of public sector absence are tackled. It is only by examining all the factors that might contribute to the public/private absence gap that progress will be made in closing it.
Employee relations adviser,
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development