Letter of the week…

Your coverage of the CBI absence report (Personnel Today, 16 May) highlights the fact that there is a difference between private sector and public sector organisations when it comes to sickness absence (with the public sector reporting higher levels of absence).

However, it also mentions that there is an even greater gulf between large and small organisations, with large organisations having nearly twice the level of absence as small ones.

What isn’t highlighted, however, is that the majority of public sector staff work in large organisations, while most private sector staff work in small organisations.

Therefore, the reason for most of the difference between the sectors is, in fact, attributable to the difference between working in a large or small organisation.

To put it another way, large private sector organisations have absence levels that are close to those in the public sector; the private sector average being pulled downwards almost entirely due to an overwhelmingly large number of small organisations that simply don’t exist in the public sector.

You can add to that the facts that public sector organisations employ a higher proportion of female workers, whose absence rates are higher in all sectors, and also that they employ people in a range of occupations where exposure to infections and strains are all part of the job.

All of this puts a severe dent in the much-repeated argument that private sector organisations manage absence better than the public sector.

Mark Godfrey, Training and development manager,Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council



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