Page last updated at 05:36 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 06:36 UK

Civil service sickness 'too high'

sickness

There area unacceptably high levels of sickness leave within the civil service, a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

In May, an Audit Office report found that Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) staff took four more days off, on average, than the rest of the UK.

The PAC report says that sickness absence levels in the NICS are more than twice that of the private sector.

It lays the blame at the door of the Department of Finance and Personnel.

Paul Maskey, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said the issue should have been dealt with long ago.

"Although there has been some reduction in sickness absence levels in the last four years, they remain unacceptably high," he said.

"What the committee wants to see is meaningful action and change, rather than words and documents."

The committee found that although civil servants in Northern Ireland do not take sickness absence any more frequently that in Great Britain, the duration is almost twice as long.

"Early referral to an occupational health professional is clearly the key to addressing this issue and more should have been done in this regard," said Mr Maskey.

"This report is a damning indictment of NICS management.

"Problems have been allowed to become entrenched, and it is evident that poor management techniques and a lack of effective responses from the Department of Finance and Personnel are to blame.

"Given the serious nature of these concerns, the committee will want to re-visit this area on a regular basis and give it the constant vigilance it deserves."




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