Almost 380 staff in Government departments are on career breaks, a third of them for more than three years.
In two departments alone, Justice and Social Protection, there are more than 70 civil servants on unpaid long-term leave each.
The figures, released to Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen through a series of parliamentary questions to 16 Government departments, show that 115 of the 379 people were on career breaks of more than four years.
There were 51 on breaks of five years or more.
Deputy Cowen said questions needed to be asked when, on the one hand, there were difficulties in processing applications for various Government services — including those dealt with by the Department of Social Protection — while on the other so many people have been allowed to take a career break.
However, in response, the Department of Social Protection pointed out it has a staff of more than 7,000 people.
“Career breaks are granted subject to the exigencies of the business,” a spokeswoman said.
“Like all Government departments, this department must operate within a reducing staffing number i.e. the Employment Control Framework (ECF) which is sanctioned by the Department of Public Expenditure and reform.
“Where business needs allow, the sanctioning of a career break can facilitate the Department in achieving staff and budget reductions,” the spokeswoman said.
The Department of Justice said it facilitates the taking of career breaks by staff for a number of reasons, including as a means of contributing to meeting the overall Government policy of reducing public sector employment generally.
“The number of staff on career break from the department represents less than 4% of the Department’s serving workforce, and is considered to be sustainable,” a spokesman said.
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