Not all in the public sector have problem with absence

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) annual absence survey (, 17 July) was, as usual, a great opportunity to beat the public sector with the very old and tired stick that says it doesn’t manage absence well.

As an HR director proud to work in the public sector, can I just lower my blood pressure slightly and say that perhaps it is time the CIPD commissioned some real research into employee wellbeing and absence management in public services. The survey findings do not in any way, shape or form reconcile with my organisation or many others in the public sector.

My organisation lost 6.12 days working time per full-time employee in 2005-06, with a workforce of 18,000 people, and I can think of many other public sector employers that perform as well, if not better, than this level. So, we are better than the “businesses” presented by the CIPD report and a more significant employer than most small and medium-sized businesses. The assertion that there is a cultural difference between how absence is managed in the private and public sectors was interesting, so taking some ofthe CIPD findings in turn:

  • Do public sector employers make the link between absence management policies and capability dismissal or conduct procedures? Yes.
  • Were staff required to attend hearings in relation to absence in the last 12 months? Yes.
  • Have public sector employers dismissed staff for absence in the last 12 months? Yes.

I’d like to know, by contrast, how much money private sector employers pay out a year for unfair dismissal on grounds of medical capability, disability discrimination and the management of absence compared to the public sector.

Stephen Moir
Director of HR
Cambridgeshire County Council

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