Embargoed: 00:01 Monday 16 May 2022
In light of government plans to find savings in the Whitehall workforce, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) have revealed that the civil service lost £348.5 million worth of working time due to sickness absence in 2019-20.
Analysis suggests that if civil service absence rates matched that of the private sector, nearly £55 million worth of working time could be immediately regained each year.
The data, collected before the covid pandemic, outlines the rates of sickness absence across 456,000 civil servants. The department with the highest value of working time lost was the Department for Work and Pensions at £61.9 million, while the Ministry of Justice had the highest average working days lost per employee at 8.6 days. The Home Office lost 7.1 days per employee, valued at £26.6 million worth of working time, compared to HM Treasury at 3.7 days and the Department for International Trade at 2.2 days. A Ministry of Justice employee was absent, on average, almost four times more often than an employee at the Department for International Trade.
Admin or assistant civil servants were the most likely to be absent of any grade and were absent almost five times more often than senior managers, at 10.4 days per employee. With this valued at more than £116 million each year, the paper found that if administrators and assistants were absent at the same rate as the private sector, the government could regain over £45 million in lost value.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance are calling on ministers to explore every opportunity to improve efficiency and value for money in the civil service, to ease the burden of Whitehall bureaucracy on struggling taxpayers.
The value of working time lost to sickness absence for 456,410 civil service employees was £348.5 million in the financial year 2019-20.
If public sector employees were absent at the same rate as private sector employees, the government could regain up to £54,855,844 of working time per year.
Seven departments could regain over £1,000,000 of working time per year. These include: Department for Work and Pensions; Ministry of Defence; Home Office; Ministry of Justice; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Department of Transport; Cabinet Office.
The department with the highest amount of working time lost to sickness absence was the Department for Work and Pensions at £61.9 million. The Department also had the third-highest yearly loss of value to sickness absence per employee at £791.17 in 2019-20.
The department with the highest yearly loss of value to sickness absence per civil service employee was the Ministry of Justice at £921.23 per employee in 2019-20. It also had the highest average work days lost per employee, at 8.6 days in 2019-20.
- The civil service responsibility level with the highest yearly loss of value to sickness absence per civil service employee was executive officers at £827.36 per employee in 2019-20. Administrative officers and assistants had the highest average work days lost per employee, losing 10.4 days per employee in 2019-20.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
“Sickness absence is endemic in the civil service and costs a small fortune while slowing down the delivery of public services.
“Government’s welcome efforts to streamline Whitehall should also mean getting the most out of the existing workforce by cracking down on absence and increasing efficiency.
“With the pandemic now behind us, ministers must explore every opportunity to improve value for money in the civil service and ease the burden of bureaucracy on struggling taxpayers.”
TPA spokespeople are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast interviews via 07795 084 113 (no texts)
Media Campaign Manager, TaxPayers' Alliance
24-hour media hotline: 07795 084 113 (no texts)
Notes to editors:
Founded in 2004 by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum, the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) campaigns to reform taxes and public services, cut waste and speak up for British taxpayers. Find out more at www.taxpayersalliance.com.
TaxPayers' Alliance's advisory council.
- Read the TaxPayers’ Alliance’s response to the government’s plans to cut civil service numbers.