Special Report 69: Managing Sickness Absence in the Civil Service - Press Release

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr John Buckley, has today published a report of an examination of the management of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service.  The last review of the level of sickness absence in the Civil Service was published in 1986.     

Main Findings

The examination found that almost 5% of available working time was lost as a result of sickness absence in 2007, the latest year for which comprehensive data was available.  On average, 59% of all staff employed in that year availed of sick leave and the average employee was absent for just over eleven days.  There was a considerable variation in sick days taken when the pattern of absence by grade, age, gender and work sharing arrangements was analysed.  Between departments absence levels varied from 2.4% to 7%.

The examination estimated that the total remuneration cost of Civil Service staff during periods of sickness absence was of the order of ?64 million.  However, the full cost of sickness absence is likely to be considerably higher when indirect costs are factored in.  For instance, it has been estimated in the UK that the true cost of absence is likely to be closer to twice the level of salary costs. 

While caution is necessary in making comparisons between jurisdictions the examination found that the average number of days lost in the Irish Civil Service is comparable to that found in similar employments in other countries.  For example, in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, the average number of days lost was found to be 12.9 in 2007/08, while in the UK Civil Service it was 9.3 in 2006/07.

The report outlines a set of good practice opportunities which Civil Service departments could deploy to improve their management of sickness absence and promote attendance.

Further Information

A summary of findings and the full text of the report is available on the website of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (go to www.gov.ie/audgen/)

Notes for Editors

The Comptroller and Auditor General is an independent constitutional officer with responsibility for the audit of public funds.  He reports to Dáil ?reann.

For further information about the report, please contact:

Fergus Glavey at (01) 603 1021 or at Fergus_Glavey@audgen.irlgov.ie