Sick Leave

The Auditor- General, Mr Peter Achterstraat, today released his report on sick leave in the NSW public sector.

NSW public sector sick leave is higher than other States

“The NSW public sector has the highest reported public sector sick leave in Australia. Public sector efforts to reduce sick leave over the last five years has seen a fall of a quarter of a day since 2004-05, less than its target of one day”, said Mr Achterstraat.

On average, public sector workers take just over eight days sick leave annually. Recent surveys of public and private sector organisations show that sick leave in the public sector is higher than the private sector.

Sick leave highest on coast and close to weekends and holidays The audit found that:

  •  employees on the coast take more sick leave than those west of the great divide

  •  sick leave can spike before or after weekends and holidays

  •  agencies with a higher entitlement tend to have higher sick leave

  •  the more people get paid the less sick leave they take

  •  sick leave increases with age and length of service

  •  in the 12 agencies reviewed sick leave entitlements varied from 5-20 days per year.

Significant improvements in some agencies “Two agencies I spoke to had together saved $20 million over three to five years as a result of their sick leave initiatives. This is a good result,” Peter Achterstraat said.

Agencies have adopted a range of healthy workforce initiatives such as influenza vaccinations and employee counselling. Others have introduced initiatives to reduce workplace stress.

“Any abuse of sick leave needs to be addressed properly,” said Peter Achterstraat.

To manage sick leave abuse some agencies:

  •  call people on sick leave to check their welfare 

  •  interview staff on their return to canvass any support issues

  •  ask employees to be examined by an agency doctor

  •  penalise employees for inappropriate sick leave by denying paid leave.

NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet should be more involved The Department of Premier and Cabinet should take a greater role by sharing better practices and agency sick leave rates throughout the public sector. Agencies will be better informed on good practice and be able to compare themselves against other agencies. The public sector sick leave rate should also be published.

Further information

Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, 02 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664