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Sickies: a century-old problem in Public Service

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HC Online | 13 Jan 2015, 08:12 AM Agree 0
Documents from the early twentieth century have revealed that employees of the Australian Public Service have been taking advantage of their sick leave for almost as long as the service has existed.
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 13 Jan 2015, 01:25 PM Agree 0
    This is an interesting article, but it says more about the author's bias than it does about the problem itself. There is a clear public-service bashing objective here. In my first career, I worked in the public sector in Australia, both federal and state, mostly in HRM, for over 30 years. I can tell you that, in all that time and in a wide variety of agencies, this was not a major problem. In fact most public sector people were, and are, very dedicated and work very hard, many often putting in long hours too. If anything they had to be told to stay home when sick, so as not to infect their work colleagues. This work pressure has been exacerbated by the endless cutting of public sector budgets by successive governments of both political persuasions, over the past 20 or so years.
    The other thing this article implies is that the inappropriate use of sick leave is a purely public sector anomaly and that such malingering by a small minority does not occur in other sectors, e.g. the private sector. Having also been an HRM consultant for a lot of private firms in Australia and overseas, I can tell you that malingering behaviour is by no means limited to the public sector.
    I think the article does an injustice to the vast majority of public sector employees who do their jobs well and are dedicated to their work. This has been despite their being constantly maligned by people who are uninformed and despite their being required to do more with less on an ongoing basis.
    A more balanced view would be very welcome !
  • Amanda Rochford | 13 Jan 2015, 02:09 PM Agree 0
    Where do you dredge this rubbish from?

    As I look around my public sector workplace and my work colleagues I dont see any malingering but I do see plenty of maligning going on in this article.

    The article is based on a report written almost 100 years ago. Really? Thats what you expect the reader to base their opinion on? Would you see a doctor, a lawyer, a builder, a teacher, anyone who had not updated their knowledge in the last 100 years? In 1920, there were no open plan offices, one telephone per floor and that was in the manager's office. A line was drawn across the page at 8:00 in the morning and anyone signing up for work after that had their pay docked. Management was a lot more dracononian. I dont think anyone is advocating the return of 1920s work practices.

    The question must be asked. Is the sick leave rate in 2014 similar to the sick leave rate in 1920 due to Public Sector staff or Public Sector management. Who hasnt moved on?
  • Dr Arthur Shacklock | 14 Jan 2015, 11:28 AM Agree 0
    I totally agree with Amanda on this. Everything she raises is pertinent and makes perfect sense. I would only add the question: has anyone wondered whether, even if the figures are up (and that is by no means proven here), perhaps the constant bashing, cutting jobs and expecting more with less has itself caused people to get sicker !? I think this was also what Amanda was alluding to in her last sentence.
    One of the problems with the Australian public is that they want a Rolls Royce set of public services, but only want to pay for a T-model Ford, or many of them nothing at all if they could get away with it ! If you keep slashing and burning, selling off public assets and giving tax relief, this simply can't happen. So let's all blame the public employees !! Give me a break !
  • Jenny | 14 Jan 2015, 11:40 AM Agree 0
    This is a very myopic view of the public sector. Having worked in the public sector for about 7 years and previously in the private sector for about 15 years, I see little difference between the two sectors, except perhaps that the private sector is under less scrutiny in relation to matters such as sick leave.

    I have seen management in both sectors fail to manage unsatisfactory attendance because it is 'hard'. In both sectors I've seen figures 'fudged' and reporting criteria changed to make stats look better in the annual report.

    In any workplace, in the public or private sector, sick leave is often only a symptom of bigger issues. Those issues include low morale, perceived lack of leadership, poor culture/climate and reaction to 'change'.

    Sick leave almost always spikes during periods of business reform & change. Where has there been almost constant change, reform & downsizing?? That would be in the public sector where in the lead up to every election everything is on hold 'pending the election', & following the election, everything is 'subject to the new regimes approval'. Each new government has to 'make their mark' so some part or other of the public sector is always under 'review' as governments look for savings. That means public servants are frequently criticised for the perception of being inefficient. For those who are, & always have been conscientious, that is demoralising. What happens when employees are demoralised? You guessed it - increased sick leave!

  • Rex | 16 Jan 2015, 11:16 AM Agree 0
    Perhaps the contributors are missing the fact that this was a report purely on APS, not APS v private sector? There is no mention of sick leave outside the public sector; so we do not know what the actual differences were.

    Socially, I find it very interesting that public service females averaged 12 sick days per year; and we should realise that only single women were permitted to work in the APS at that time.

    Another very interesting item is that after 10 years of service, APS employees were entitled to one year's sick leave. This gives my cynical nature a question - did many reach 10 years service?

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