Public sector workers widen the gap in days taken off sick

The gap between the number of sick days taken in the private sector compared to the public sector is at its widest for four years, new figures have suggested.

The poll of 1,000 firms by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found average absence levels in the public sector stood at 10.3 days per employee per year, compared to 6.8 days in the private sector.

Stress is one of the leading – and growing – causes of absence in the public sector, with around a half of public sector organisations citing stress as a leading cause of long-term absence for non-manual workers, it added.

More than four out of 10 public sector organisations said their stress levels had increased during the past year. Absence levels were highest in local government and the health sector.

Overall, absence levels fell to 8.4 days per employee a year, down from 9.1 days for the previous 12 months.

Annual sickness absence costs increased by 2.2%, although this increase was lower than the previous 12 months, when absence costs increased by 3.7% year-on-year.

The cost of absence was highest in the public sector at 645 per employee a year, rising to 1,060 within the health sector.

Public sector organisations were least likely to use disciplinary procedures to manage unacceptable levels of absence, and also least likely to restrict sick pay. They provided occupational sick pay for the longest out of all the main sectors and were least likely to believe absence was not genuine.

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