Public sector employees take more sick days

Research has uncovered a significant discrepancy in absence trends between the public and private sectors.

Some 33 per cent of public sector employers say that their average employee takes more than five days off sick per year, compared to 15.9 per cent in the private sector, according to a survey of 500 employers by trade body Group Risk Development (GRiD).

Across the board, the most commonly cited reasons for absences of over four weeks are home and family issues (16.8 per cent), stress (15 per cent) and acute medical conditions such as heart attacks and cancer (14.8 per cent).

Stress is by far the biggest cause of long-term absence among public sector employees, running at almost three times the level for acute medical conditions. 37.5 per cent of public sector employers state that stress is the biggest cause of absence in their organisation, compared to just 11.2 per cent in the private sector.

Compared with last year’s GRiD research, both stress and family issues have reduced slightly as a main cause for long-term absence when looking across all sectors.

GRiD spokesperson Katharine Moxham says, ‘With public sector cuts looming and welfare reform on the government agenda, it’s an interesting time to look at what effect these pressures are having on employees in that sector. As well as a significant issue with stress, there are clearly cultural differences between the sectors, and perhaps a less permissive environment amongst private sector workers.

She adds, ‘In times of increased economic pressure it is important for employers to consider firstly the wellbeing of their employees and what wider implications are suggested by high levels of stress or other mental illness, and secondly what provisions they have in place to ensure both the employee and the employer are adequately protected in case of long-term absence.’

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