Most federal staff get 15 paid sick days every year, a fact I remember well from my time working there. What I also remember is that those employees are allowed to bank that sick time. In my few years there, I saw many cases of people taking extended sick time due to banked sick days (months and months, in some cases), especially right before retirement.
In the case of this particular report, it appears as though federal employees are calling in sick for 12 of those 15 days, and evidently the use of long-term disability benefits is also increasing. When long-term leave is combined with sick days the average time off work amounts to 18 working days a year, which, if you do the math again, is almost a full month away from work. That’s a lot of sick time. 2½ times the average in the private sector, according to CBC.
What is “sick,” exactly?
Of all the organizations I’ve worked for, the federal government had more people on stress leave than anywhere else I’ve seen. Of course this is completely anecdotal, and based on one person’s observation (mine), but the Treasury Board report apparently analyzed that as well. Almost half the federal employees collecting disability benefits are on leave for mental health issues such as stress or depression.
Those who have commented on these record numbers seem to think that re-structuring and layoffs can account for some of the rising absenteeism. I understand that – the only thing consistent in government is change. And in an organization the size of the Government of Canada, with employees all over the country and most very distant from Ottawa (both literally and figuratively), change isn’t often managed well. If government continues to overhaul their size and structure, I think they can expect this public service illness to spread.
No solution in sight
This report is part of something called the Disability Management Initiative, and it appears as though it was intended to provide a foundation for overhauling sick leave and disability programs. But here’s the catch, says CBC – the report was finished a year ago and it appears nothing at all has changed in the time since.
Maybe the person responsible for it is on sick leave.