As at 31 December 2009, out of a total of 10,092 staff in DEFRA and its agencies (excluding the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)), 621 staff have had five or more periods of sickness absence of fewer than five days in two or more of the last three years. This figure has been based on the last three calendar years except for Rural Payments Agency, which has used financial years. CEFAS is implementing a new management information system and its figure is currently unavailable.
DEFRA and its agencies closely monitor sickness absence in line with their sickness absence policies and by benchmarking sick absence rates against Cabinet Office figures for the civil service. Policies and good working practices are in place to reduce frequent short-term sick absences. These include facilitating timely employee access to occupational health advice, medical or wellbeing interventions. Additionally, managers hold return-to-work interviews to discuss employees’ reasons for absence, including any work-related issues connected with their absence. Where necessary, action plans will be agreed to improve employees’ attendance at work.