A report by a committee of MPs has slammed the management of sickness absence in two large agencies of the Department for Transport (DfT).
The report by the influential Public Accounts Committee said sick leave “seems to be a way of life” in the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and the DVLA.
On average, each employee is off sick for nearly three weeks each year. The fact that both agencies functioned despite this “amazingly high” rate of absence was matter for surprise, according to committee chairman Edward Leigh.
However, the report did acknowledge that the high rate was principally down to relatively few members of staff on long-term sickness absence.
“The Department for Transport has recently roused itself to review such cases and crack down where appropriate. The two agencies should follow its example immediately,” Leigh said.
“The department and its agencies must also pay special attention to the morale and motivation of their staff, especially those engaged in mundane repetitive work or in stressful front-line work with the public.”
The report was based on evidence from senior executives at the DfT and the two agencies.
Staff of the DfT and its seven executive agencies were absent through sickness for an average of 10.4 working days in 2005 – at a cost to the taxpayer of £24m.
However, the DSA and the DVLA had levels in excess of 13 days. Both are large employers, together employing more than half of the total staff within the DfT group.
The DfT has a target of reducing sickness absence rates by 30% on 2004 levels of 10.7 days by 2010.
A DfT spokesman said the department was committed to making improvements and supporting those who were genuinely sick.