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Understanding sickness absence

Understanding and promoting the connection between sickness absence and an engaged and motivated work force is a priority for the Civil Service.

Last updated - 15th March 2010

Analysis has shown that many of the demographic characteristics of the Civil Service are associated with increased sickness absence. 

A report by the Health and Safety Executive1 (HSE) found that, compared with the private sector, public sector organisations typically employ a higher proportion of female and older workers, who record higher than average levels of absence. 

The HSE reported that, when all factors were controlled for, public sector employees took only an average of 0.3 days a year more sickness than those in the private sector. 

The Civil Service is much like the wider public sector in this respect and has an older age profile (the median age being 44 years) and a greater percentage of women (53%) than organisations in the private sector. 

When this is combined with the fact that most Civil Servants also work for a large organisations, another factor associated with increased sickness absence, much of this difference can be explained.  Over 75% of Civil Servants working in DWP, Ministry of Justice, HM Revenue and Customs or Ministry of Defence.

1 Workplace Absence, Sickness and Ill Health, 2005