Absence rates at the Department for Work and Pensions, which is leading the Government’s anti-absence drive, are far higher than average for the public sector, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
The damning report by the official watchdog found there was average sickness absence of 12.6 days per person in the DWP in 2003-04.
While good attendance management procedures were in place, more could be done to “ensure that these procedures are adopted by all of its staff, and that its managers improve the management of staff attendance”, it said.
In 2002 the DWP, which is the largest department in the Government, pledged to reduce sickness absence to an average of 10 working days lost per member of staff by this year, and to eight days by 2006.
The first target had, obviously, been missed, and the 2006 was “unlikely to be met”, said the NAO.
The DWP’s attendance management policy includes an eight-day trigger point for management action, compulsory return-to-work interviews, a long-term absence taskforce and better access to occupational health services.
But, said the NAO, it had been poorly launched and inconsistently implemented. OH services, while good, could be used more effectively. There was also a lack of timely and reliable data on absence.
It recommended that the DWP needed to reinforce its culture of attendance, improve communication on its attendance policies, better identify problems and improve support for managers.
NAO head Sir John Bourne said: “The department needs to do more to ensure that the good attendance management procedures it has introduced are adopted by all staff and managers across the organisation.”