Department staff clocked up 20,000 sick days in 3 years

STAFF in the Department of Social and Family Affairs have clocked up almost 20,000 uncertified sick days since 2006.

As the numbers out of work hit a record high, documents released under Freedom of Information show staff from Mary Hanafin’s department have already taken 1,705 so- called ‘duvet days’ this year — and are one of the worst offenders across all Government departments.

More than a quarter of the sick days were on a Monday.

Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin has been severely criticised because of the lengthy delays in processing unemployment claims.

However, despite repeated pledges from the minister to redeploy staff from other areas, some people are forced to wait up to three months for benefits.

The figures released to the Irish Examiner show in 2006, 5,998 days in the department were lost. In 2007 the figure was 5,933 and again last year it was 5,970, proving the problem is ongoing. These figures added to the tally so far this year amount to 19,606 uncertified sick days since 2006.

The department employs just under 5,000 staff, and is one of the biggest in Government.

Clerical officers, of which there are about 2,400, were by far the worst offenders, and between them racked up almost 4,000 uncertified days annually from 2006.

Last year, 383 staff in the department were referred to the chief medical officer for examination. This is understood to be undertaken only if someone has a particularly bad sick leave record.

However, absenteeism problem is not confined to Ms Hanafin’s department.

Department of Agriculture staff clocked up 3,095 uncertified sick days last year — 653 of these on a Monday. Department of Education staff took more than 3,000 sick days over the past two years, and almost 400 so far this year.

Under official civil service rules, staff can take two days of sick leave without having to provide a medical certificate, and up to seven days uncertified sick leave in total per year.

Civil servants who took more than 56 days of sick leave in four years were ruled out for promotion

According to the Department of Social and Family Affairs, all sick leave is monitored closely and particular attention is paid to the number, and pattern if any, of uncertified sick days.

Officers who take between five and seven uncertified sick days in any 12-month period are contacted formally by the department and the matter is then dealt with on an individual case basis, a spokesperson said.

An investigation into absenteeism in the civil service is being prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Office and it is expected it will be presented to the Minister for Finance mid-summer.


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