Federal Workers' Sick Days Have Taxpayers Federation Up In Arms

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Workers in Quebec take the most sick days in Canada, according to data compiled by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), but it’s federal government workers who take the crown when it comes to sick leave. (Getty Images)
Workers in Quebec take the most sick days in Canada, according to data compiled by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), but it’s federal government workers who take the crown when it comes to sick leave. (Getty Images)

Workers in Quebec take the most sick days in Canada, according to data compiled by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), but it’s federal government workers who take the crown when it comes to sick leave.

The CTF says federal workers take an average of 17.9 sick days per year, some two-and-a-half times as much as the national private-sector average of 6.7 days.

We have more federal government employees booking off sick on any given day than actually show up for work at General Motors and Chrysler combined,” CTF Federal Director Gregory Thomas said in a statement. “We’re facing an epidemic of sick-leave abuse amongst government employees and it needs to be stopped.”

The CTF’s numbers, which came from data published by the Treasury Board and from a custom request to Statistics Canada, show that public-sector workers in each province consistently take more sick days than private-sector workers.

Quebec had the highest average for both government and non-government workers — 12.2 and 8.5 sick days per year, respectively.

Ontario’s government workers took the fewest sick days among public sector workers, 8.8 on average. But Alberta had the fewest sick days in the private sector, at 5.6.

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The CTF singled out Veterans Affairs Canada as having the worst sick-day record among federal government departments — 24.2 per year, including paid and unpaid leave, or the equivalent of nearly five full weeks of work.

“The behaviour of Veterans Affairs employees is unbelievable,” the CTF’s Thomas said. "We’re not talking about war veterans here, we’re talking about desk jockeys in Ottawa.”

In an Angus Reid poll carried out this spring, more than half of Canadians admitted to faking being sick in order to get time off.

Among those who admit to faking illness, 65 per cent said they did so because they felt stressed or burned out.

Another 35 per cent said they did so to care for a sick child, 13 per cent said the day off was needed because their workload was too heavy and 12 per cent said they took a day off because they didn’t have enough paid vacation days.

Treasury Board Tony Clement earlier this year said the government intends to reform the sick leave system for federal workers. Currently public servants get 15 sick days per year, which can be carried over to future years if they’re not used.

But Clement did not suggest federal workers were taking advantage of sick leave, instead arguing that the government’s approach to workplace health is outdated and at the heart of the problem.

We need to find a better way to support our employees and help them get back to work as quickly as possible,” he said.

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