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Employees (Sick Rate)

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 20 February 1952

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20.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the average sick-rate amongst Post Office employees for the year before Post Office employees came under the National Health Service administration; and what was the sick-rate figure for the last year for which figures exist since Post Office employees came under the National Health Service administration.

The average rates for non-disabled established staff were as follows:

in 1947, 11.6 days for males and 14.9 days for females;
in 1950, 13.4 days for males and 17.3 days for females.

Can the Minister state what effect on the Post Office staff situation this most disturbing increase in the sick-rate has had?

The increase in the sick-rate is certainly disturbing, and even more so in comparison with pre-war figures. If we could get the sickness rate down to what it was before the war, it would be possible to make an economy of 5,000 people in the Post Office service.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that these changing figures do not necessarily mean that more people are sick, but that before the National Health Service came into operation many people went on working when they ought to have stayed away because they could not afford to be sick and to pay the doctor?

That was certainly not true so far as the Post Office service was concerned.

Can my hon. Friend give the pre-war figures for comparison?

In 1938 the comparable figure for men was 8.1 days and for women 9.3 days.

I should like to ask two questions. First, how does the average sick-rate in the Post Office compare with the national figure in industry generally? Secondly, to what extent have war disabilities and the lower physical standard of recruiting affected the situation?

In reply to the first question, I must say that I do not know. The hon. Gentleman ought to put such a question to the Minister of Labour. On the second point, it is perhaps too early to say except that the general health of the Post Office service as reckoned from the death-rate or the number of retirements has fortunately not deteriorated.

Will the Assistant Postmaster-General exercise care to ensure that he is not casting an undeserved reflection on a most excellent body of people, in view of the fact that disablement on the part of applicants for jobs in the Post Office is one of the first considerations in employing them? We ought to keep that in mind.

I am not casting any aspersions on anybody. I think the whole House should be disturbed to find this increase in these figures, whatever may be the reason for it.