Magazine article Public Finance

Councils Work to Cut Cost of Sickness Absence

Magazine article Public Finance

Councils Work to Cut Cost of Sickness Absence

Article excerpt

Local government employers have proposed a radical overhaul of council sickness management, including reducing the length of time that staff can receive full pay while absent from work.

Public Finance has learnt that the Employers' Organisation for local government wants to cut the cost of council sickness absence by halving the length of time that staff on sick leave can claim full pay from six months to three.

The proposal is contained in a letter sent by EO secretary Mike Walker to local government union leaders on the sector's National Joint Council on May 11.

Public bodies have been under pressure to reduce staff absence rates, and a review of local government sickness management was agreed as part of the sector's 2004 pay deal.

The average council employee took 11.7 days off work in 2003/04, while average sickness absence in the private sector was 7.2 days per employee. The CBI has claimed that £1.2bn could be saved annually by bringing public sector absence into line with that of private firms.

As well as slashing the cost of sick leave of less than six months, councils also want to reduce the impact of longer-term absence, by cutting payments for sick leave of between ten to 12 months from half pay to one-quarter pay.

Controversially, the EO also wants to beef up councils' existing powers to suspend payments to staff who persistently take time off work. …

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