Sick days across the public sector cost the State over €380m last year, according to figures released by the Department of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform.
While this is a €40m rise on 2017’s figures, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has attributed the increase to pay restoration and growing numbers working in the public sector. The department says there has been a cumulative saving of €156m since 2013, the year before cross-sector reform of sick leave in the public service was introduced.
The figures relate to over 274,000 full-time equivalents across the public service and include the civil service and the education, health, justice, local government, and defence sectors.
There were 9.2 days lost per full-time equivalents last year as a result of sick leave and an overall lost time rate of 4.2%, down 0.1% on 2017.
- The health sector accounted for €187.9 of 2018’s sick leave costs. A rise of €19m on 2017.
- The cost of sick leave for teachers rose by €9.6m to €64.3m in 2018.
- Among gardaí, the total cost increased from €13.3m in 2017 to €15.9m last year.
- The total cost of sick leave in the Defence Forces rose from €8.7m in 2017 to €10.2m last year.
That represents a rise of 17% and a rise in the lost-time rate of 0.5%. The Defence Forces is not subject to the terms of the Public Service Sick Leave Scheme.
Mr Donohoe said while the department estimates that overall savings in the cost of sick leave across the public service continue to be made, “further work needs to be done to reduce the impact of the Sick Leave Scheme on the Exchequer”.
“The rate of sick leave in the public service remains relatively stable.
“The rising associated salary costs of sick leave as a result of pay restoration initiatives and a growing public-sector workforce have seen a substantial overall rise in sick leave costs for the majority of the public sector in 2018,” he said.
This department are continuing to collaborate closely with sectoral management and staff representatives from across the public service to work towards improving the effectiveness of the operation of the scheme.
"In addition to this, management in each of the sectors must focus on the management of absenteeism, and policies designed to assist employers in managing cases of prolonged or frequent absence proactively.
"The department will support sectors in this area by sharing initiatives undertaken in the civil service to address the issue,” he said.
The department said that it was seeking to address absence issues through initiatives across policy reform, support and training, and research and data on the underlying drivers of absence in the sector.