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Departmental Sick Leave

Volume 485: debated on Tuesday 16 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with reference to the answer of 18 November 2008, Official Report, column 260W, on departmental sick leave, which illnesses resulted in working days being lost. (243388)

The 15,287.57 working days lost within the Northern Ireland Office for the period 1 October 2007 to 30 September 2008 have been recorded under the following 11 categories:

Musculoskeletal;

Blood and Cardiovascular;

Respiratory;

Digestive, Endocrine, Renal;

Nervous System, Eyes, Ears;

Pregnancy-related/Post-natal;

Psychiatric/Psychological;

Viral/Bacterial Infections;

Injury/Accident/Assault;

Medical Tests and Observation; and

Non-specific/Other.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with reference to the answer of 18 November 2008, Official Report, column 260W, on departmental sick leave, how many people were absent for more than a month due to ill health in the last 12 months. (243389)

Statistics provided by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency show that 164 staff in the Northern Ireland Office had one or more periods of long-term absence due to ill health in 2007-08. Long-term absence is defined as a period of 20 working days or more.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with reference to the answer of 18 November 2008, Official Report, column 260W, on departmental sick leave, what steps are being taken to reduce the number of working days lost. (243390)

The Northern Ireland Office has a series of policies and procedures in place which aim to reduce the number of working days lost through illness. These include:

daily monitoring of sickness absence;

referral of absent staff to occupational health professionals for independent assessment of their fitness for work;

meetings of the Welfare Support Service with staff to focus on how to facilitate an early return to work;

staff returning from long term absence can return sooner by way of phased returns;

Welfare Support Services are available to meet with staff who are in work to help deal with issues which might otherwise cause them to be absent from work;

staff are encouraged to attend organised Health Awareness events;

fitness programmes are offered to NIO staff annually to encourage staff to improve their physical and emotional health;

variable working patterns are available to staff to enable a work life balance to be achieved;

mandatory return to work interviews are conducted to ensure that managers understand the reasons for absence and staff understand the consequences of absence;

cases where staff have repeated or persistent absence are considered individually and inefficiency due to absenteeism can ultimately lead to dismissal.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many working days have been lost through sickness absence by Northern Ireland Office staff in each of the last five years. (243391)

The following table details the number of working days lost through sickness absence within the Northern Ireland Office in each of the last five years. The Northern Ireland Office employs Northern Ireland civil servants and Home civil servants. The figure for 2003-04 includes Northern Ireland civil servants only. The remaining figures include Northern Ireland civil servants and Home civil servants.

Total days absence

2003-04

16,592.5

2004-05

18,364.5

2005-06

17,313.3

2006-07

18,631.8

2007-08

15,986.4