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Employment & Labour

Focus on public servant absentee rates warranted

In attempting to shrink the federal absentee rate among public servants, the Conservative government is acting as any responsible employer would, says Toronto lawyer Anatoly Dvorkin.

“Given the higher rate of absenteeism amongst federal public sector employees, I think it makes perfect sense that the government would try to correct this situation,” says Dvorkin.

“It appears to be a decision based on hard data and not mere conjecture so my reaction is to applaud the government for trying to take corrective measures to fix a workplace problem that not only affects the operation of the government, but the efficiency with which our tax dollars are being used.”

Treasury Board president Tony Clement said the government wants to move away from the current rules, where workers can use up to 15 paid sick days and five family days a year, in addition to vacation time, the Globe and Mail reports.

Clement questioned why the federal absentee rate is higher than that of other governments and the private sector, where he said the average number of sick days is 6.7, the article says, noting the government is proposing two new programs: one for short-term disability that would include provisions for someone being off for regular occurrences, like colds and flu, and a new long-term disability program for more serious problems.

“If the data presented is correct, then I do believe that targeting this issues in the next round of collective bargaining is more than warranted,” says Dvorkin. “I would say it is incumbent upon the government to take measures to correct the problem on behalf of all Canadians.”

Union leaders have taken issue with comparisons of public- and private-sector absenteeism, the Globe reports, noting arguments have centered on the fact that the private sector does not document sick days in the same way as governments do.

“My belief is that the government tracks absenteeism much the same way that any large, private sector employer would and that would be as diligently as possible,” says Dvorkin.

“If anything, I would assume that the private sector, being concerned with profits, views absenteeism as a large cost which is to be tracked and, to the extent possible, mitigated by implementation of effective policies in the workplace. It should also be noted that the data apparently shows that the rate of absenteeism is higher amongst federal public sector employees than other public sector employees.”

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