Poor sick leave policies cost city $9m

A report slamming one Canadian city's sick leave policies shows the growing gap between unionized public sector workers and the rest of the country.

HR professionals across the country are looking at a report showing there may be a sick-leave gap for unionized workers.

The report from a Halifax auditor general finds the city’s sick leave policy is costing taxpayers more than $9 million a year – and the amount is growing as unionized workers take more sick days.

According to Larry Munroe, over the last four years sick leave among unionized municipal workers increased 24.1%.
“You see very large differences between unionized and non-unionized employees,” he said in an interview, noting that unionized workers use nearly twice the number of sick days as non-unionized workers. Different sick leave policies across different departments also influenced numbers, with Metro Transit and Transportation and Public Works employees taking almost double the number of sick days as the average municipal worker.

Other municipal departments have incentives to , such as Halifax Water workers, who receive an annual bonus if they do not take all their sick leave entitlement. Altogether, Halifax Water paid workers $79,300 in 2012 for not taking sick days. Munroe questioned the goal of such programs, which may encourage employees to come to work sick.

He made 20 recommendations to improve the municipality’s sick leave policies, including creating consistency across the municipality.

Sick leave in the public sector was debated early in 2014 as the TTC’s one-day sick leave policy requiring a medical note for workers missing just one shift was slammed by union officials. TTC management claims the policy has cut absenteeism from 8.42% to 7.7%.

Such policies were criticized by Ontario Medical Association President Scott Wooder, who said workers waiting for doctor’s notes waste medical resources and put vulnerable groups at work by visiting medical centres while contagious.
 

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