Sick leave action paying dividends

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A CRACKDOWN on sick leave in government has seen an 18 per cent drop in the number of days lost in the civil service in just six months – and saved £638,000.

Chief Minister Allan Bell MHK said action being taken to address staff sickness absence was ‘beginning to pay dividends’.

One of his first actions following his election as Chief Minister last year was to ask the Office of Human Resources to produce a plan to tackle ‘unacceptably’ high levels of sick leave.

Figures released in Tynwald last year showed the cost of sickness absence across government rose to £13.7 million, up from £10.4 million in 2007-08.

Of 9,582 staff, nine were off for more than 200 days, more than 800 were off sick for more than 21 days and 2,039 were on sick leave for between five and 20 days.

Latest figures show a significant reduction in the average number of days lost per employee, resulting in a saving of £638,000 for the first six months of the financial year.

There was an 18 per cent reduction in the number of days lost per employee in the Civil Service - 3.43 days for April-September 2012, compared with 4.22 days for the corresponding six months last year.

The number of days lost per employee across the public sector has decreased by 9.5 per cent, from 3.68 in 2011 to 3.33 over the first half of this year.

The most common reasons given for absence are ‘musculoskeletal problems’, ‘stress, anxiety, depression’ and ‘operations, hospitalisation’. Long-term absence accounts for more than 60 per cent of such leave.

Mr Bell said: ‘These latest statistics are very encouraging and represent a major step in the right direction. The action being taken to address staff sickness absence is beginning to pay dividends and I hope the levels will continue to fall over the second half of the year.’

He added: ‘The vast majority of government employees work very conscientiously to serve the people of the Isle of Man, and most cases of sickness absence are genuine. However, there was concern that the system was open to abuse by a minority and needed to be addressed.’

Mr Bell said that as well as encouraging staff to be more responsible in their approach to work, greater support was being provided to staff who were genuinely ill.

Employees experiencing musculoskeletal problems are encouraged to use the self-referral system promoted by the Department of Health’s physiotherapy department, and training of managers is being extended to include sessions on resilience and the management of stress.

Mr Bell said there was still room for improvement but ‘positive progress’ was being achieved.

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