Public service sick leave worth £350m every year
New research from free market campaign group the Taxpayers Alliance (TPA) finds the Civil Service lost £348.5million in working time due to sickness absence in 2019-20 .
It comes amid government suggestions that 91,000 civil service jobs could be cut.
The analysis suggests that if civil service absence rates matched those in the private sector, nearly £55m of working time could be immediately clawed back each year.
The data, collected before the covid pandemic, describes sickness absence rates among 456,000 civil servants. The department with the highest value of working time lost was the Department for Work and Pensions at £61.9million, while the Department of Justice had the highest average working days lost per employee with 8.6 days. The Home Office lost 7.1 days per employee, worth £26.6million in working time, compared to 3.7 days for the UK Treasury and 2.2 days for the Department of International trade. An employee of the Department of Justice was absent on average nearly four times more often than an employee of the Department of International Trade.
The campaign group urged ministers to explore all avenues to improve efficiency and value for money in the civil service, to ease the burden of Whitehall bureaucracy on struggling taxpayers.
Administrative or assistant civil servants were the most likely to be absent from all ranks and were absent almost five times as often as senior managers, at 10.4 days per employee. Worth over £116m each year, the document revealed that if administrators and assistants were absent at the same rate as the private sector, the government could recoup over £45m in lost value.
The group’s research found that the value of lost working time due to sickness absence for 456,410 civil service employees was £348.5million in the 2019-20 financial year.
According to the figures, public sector employees were absent at the same rate as private sector employees, the government could claw back up to £54,855,844 in working time a year.
Seven departments could recoup over £1,000,000 in working time a year. These include: Department for Work and Pensions; Department of Defense; Home office; Ministry of Justice; Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Ministry of transportation ; Cabinet office. The department with the most lost working time due to sickness absence was the Department for Work and Pensions at £61.9m. The Department also recorded the third highest annual value loss due to sickness absence per employee, at £791.17 in 2019-20.
The department with the highest annual value loss due to sickness absence per civil service employee was the Department of Justice at £921.23 per employee in 2019-20. It also had the highest average number of lost working days per employee, at 8.6 days in 2019-20. The level of civil service responsibility with the highest annual loss in value due to sickness absence per civil service employee was senior management at £827.36 per employee in 2019-20. Administrative and assistant officers had the highest average lost workdays per employee, losing 10.4 days per employee in 2019-20.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers Alliance, said: “Sickness absence is rampant in the public service and costs a small fortune while slowing down the delivery of public services. “The Government’s welcome efforts to streamline Whitehall should also mean making the most of the existing workforce by cracking down on absences and increasing efficiency.
“With the pandemic now behind us, ministers must explore all avenues to improve value for money in the public service and ease the burden of bureaucracy on struggling taxpayers.” The Trades Union Congress has accused the government of treating the civil service “with contempt” as the prospect of mass redundancies in Whitehall looms.
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