An internal report from the Treasury Board suggests that the number of sick days among federal public sector servants is increasing. It highlighted that civil servants stayed home 18 days each year and this costs the taxpayers more than $1 billion.
How many times have you been absent from work over the past year?
The federal government is starting to investigate the rising cases of absenteeism among its workforce. CBC News obtained a confidential report by the Treasury Board showing the increasing costs of absences and health and sick leave, which are diminishing productivity and effectiveness.
As departments try to do more with less – the federal government is cutting budgets by $5.2 billion annually – there are daily absences of approximately 19,000 people. The government wants to slash 19,200 jobs by 2015.
Public workers have stayed home on average 18 days per year, which is close to one month and this is approximately 2 ½ times the average of absenteeism in the nation’s private sector. It is also twice the sick leave and disability claim levels.
In all levels of government, the report concludes that public sector employees, whether it is a crown corporation or agency, take more time off than private sector employees for illness or injury.
“We know the population isn't sick 18 days a year; it doesn't make sense,” said Gregory Thomas, head of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, in an interview with the news outlet. “The government's got to start treating this money like it's their own money, and they've got to insist that if people are healthy, they come to work. And if people are sick, you've got to make sure they are sick.”
Over the past decade, disability claims and absences related to illness or injury have hit all-time highs. Close to half of disability claims are related to depression and Ottawa has been given the title of the “depression capital of Canada.”
Figures suggest that this is costing Canadian taxpayers more than $1 billion in lost wages. Civil servants receive up to 15 paid sick days each year and the averages show they are using 12.5 of them, which is twice that of the private sector. Furthermore, in most sectors of the federal government, employees do not have to use the sick days and can bank them for the future.
It is estimated that public sector employees are maintaining more than $5 billion of accumulated sick leave and this could establish a tsunami of absenteeism in the near future.
Bill Wilkerson, co-founder of the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health, told the Ottawa Citizen that the present system of sick leave, which many consider “an entitlement earned,” must be eliminated.
“This should be about recovery, renewal, return to health and work and if that takes one week, six months or a year so be it, but looking at it as something you are owed or due under a contract, skews the entire system,” said Wilkerson. “Sick leave is not a holiday or time that can be added to vacation. They are sick days to get well and better and should never been seen as a benefit or entitlement.”