Sicknote civil servants cost government £425m in 2005

The Civil Service lost more than five million working days to staff sickness absence last year, official figures have revealed.

Cabinet Office data showed that the average number of working days lost in 2005 was 9.8 across all departments, costing the government £425m. The statistics compare unfavourably with the private sector, where the latest CBI figures put the average absence rate at six days a year.

The figures will come as a disappointment to government officials, who are determined that the public sector as an employer must set an example for healthy workplaces and good occupational health practice.

The percentage of employees losing only five working days or less was 72.7%, down from 73.3% the previous year. The proportion of staff with no spells of sickness absence also fell slightly.

But there remains a significant problem with long-term absence, with non-attendance for unknown reasons accounting for nearly a quarter (23.4%) of all absences.

The worst-performing large department was HM Revenue & Customs, with an average of 11.8 working days lost. However, the highest absence rate among all departments and government agencies was in the Meat Hygiene Service, which lost an average of 17.2 days.

The Cabinet Office was the best-performing department for the second successive year, with an average of just 4.2 working days lost.

Sickness absence: How government departments fared in 2005



  • HM Revenue & Customs 11.8 average working days lost

  • Home Office 10.6 average working days lost

  • Scottish Executive 10.6 average working days lost

  • Transport 10.2 average working days lost

  • Work and Pensions 10.1 average working days lost

  • HM Land Registry 9.0 average working days lost

  • National Assembly for Wales 9.0 average working days lost

  • Education and Skills 8.9 average working days lost

  • Constitutional Affairs 8.5 average working days lost

  • Ministry of Defence 8.3 average working days lost

  • Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 8.1 average working days lost

  • Trade & Industry 7.1 average working days lost

  • Health 6.7 average working days lost

  • Culture, Media & Sport 6.6 average working days lost

  • Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 5.9 average working days lost

  • International Development 5.7 average working days lost

  • HM Treasury 5.0 average working days lost

  • Cabinet Office 4.2 average working days lost

  • All other agencies 8.9 average working days lost

Source: Analysis of sickness absence in the Civil Service 2005

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