Public service chiefs seek €25m sick leave cost cut

Public service management want to cut the cost of sick leave by 5% or €25m by the end of the year.

Trade unions have already rejected proposals to greatly reduce the sick-leave entitlements which apply to the State’s employees. Further talks are expected at the Labour Relations Commission.

At present, staff can take up to seven paid, uncertified (leave without a doctor’s certificate) sick days per year.

Most public servants on certified sick leave can receive full pay for up to six months in one year, and half pay thereafter, subject to a maximum of 12 months’ paid sick leave in any four-year period.

Management have proposed to reduce uncertified sick leave to three days per year and certified leave to a maximum of three months on full pay and three further months on half pay.

Even a 5% cut in sick leave costs would benefit the State to the tune of €25m, though if public service employers were to succeed in cutting sick leave entitlements, the savings would be much greater in the future.

The management’s proposal document, a copy of which was secured by Industrial Relations News, contains figures on long-term absence in the civil service.

It shows 2,365 of the total 36,000 employees took some form of longer-term paid sick leave in the four years between 2008 and 2012.

“It is noticeable that the numbers of employees on paid sick leave drop considerably when the sick pay drops to half the normal rate of pay,” the document notes. Of the total, 1,483 had leave from 3-6 months, while 472 had leave from 6-12 months. “It is reasonable to assume that the reduction in remuneration acts as an incentive to return to work.”

Shay Cody, chair of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ public services committee, has said a “blanket reduction” in sick leave arrangements would not address any abuse of the system, but would have a “disastrous effect” on those who suffer catastrophic or life-threatening illnesses.

Unions point out the most recent figures from the Comptroller and Auditor General showed 40% of civil servants took no sick leave, and that the average amount of uncertified sick leave taken by each employee was well below two days in a year.


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