Employers need to do more to address the huge cost of sickness absence in the workplace.

A report by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency published today shows that the sickness absence rate in the civil service for 2018/19 was an average of 12.6 days.

This represents a loss of 5.8% of the available working days for the year and equates to an estimated £32.9 million of lost production in salary terms. The current figures are 48% higher than the Assembly’s 2014-15 Programme for Government (PfG) target for sickness absence of 8.5 days.

Earlier this week the Northern Ireland Audit Office published a report, which found that overall sickness absence rates across local government were the highest since 1990.  The average sickness absence rate for councils was 14.89 days, representing approximately 6.8% of total working days for the year.  The majority of days lost at each council related to long-term absenteeism with conditions such as musculoskeletal problems, stress and depression being key contributors.

Commenting on the reports, Tom Sullivan Public Affairs and Policy Manager for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy said,

“Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the second most common cause of sickness absence.  Speeding up access to physiotherapy is key to reducing this.  Draft guidelines issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that early intervention could benefit both employees and their employers and those companies should consider offering employee assistance programmes. Rapid access to musculoskeletal physiotherapists can reduce the amount of time people are off sick and is vital in preventing a new acute problem becoming chronic and long lasting.”

Mr Sullivan commented further,

“Employers need to do more to address the huge cost of sickness absence here. The NI Assembly Finance Committee report on “Sickness Absence in the Northern Ireland Public Sector” published in 2015 included a number of recommendations for tackling issue including the “systematic adoption of early intervention measures, such as referral to specialist physiotherapy services”. It is clear that despite the fact that we do not have a working Assembly there is much that can be done by the Northern Ireland Civil Service, the Department of Finance and employers generally, to address sickness absence in the workplace, and which does not require an executive decision by a Minister.”


For further information contact:-

Tom Sullivan
Public Affairs & Policy Manager
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy NI
Scottish Provident Building
Donegall Square West
Belfast BT1 6JH

Mob: 07779651939

email sullivant@csp.org.uk

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