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Departmental Sick Leave

Volume 503: debated on Monday 11 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many days sickness absence were taken by staff in his Department and its agencies in each of the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what the cost to his Department was of such absence. (305550)

DEFRA manages sickness absences in line with its sickness absence policy. This includes facilitating timely employee access to occupational health advice, medical or wellbeing interventions. Long-term sick employees are encouraged to return to work on a programme of recuperative duties where appropriate. All individuals returning to work from sickness absence will have a “welcome back” meeting with their manager. This is to discuss their reasons for absence and, where necessary, work-related issues connected with their absence including provision of workplace adjustments.

The number of days of sickness absence taken by staff in DEFRA and its agencies in each of the last 12 months could be calculated only by incurring disproportionate cost. However, the total number of working days lost due to sickness in the year to 30 September 2009 (the latest available figure) in DEFRA and its agencies was 80,900, an average of 8.1 days per employee. The estimated cost of sickness absence in 2008-09 was £9.6 million.

There is no agreed method of calculating the cost of sickness absences in the civil service. DEFRA has calculated the annual cost by multiplying the number of working days lost due to sickness in each grade by the average salary for that grade. No account has been taken of staff on long-term sick who are on reduced or no pay, which would reduce the total.