Amid efforts to reform absenteeism policies in the federal bureaucracy, a new report finds government workers take 65 per cent more sick days than private-sector employees.
The report from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation used Statistics Canada data to determine that government employees on average take 11.2 sick and disability days per year, compared to 6.8 days in the private sector.
"Curiously, there is a clear trend of significantly higher sick days among government employees compared to their private sector counterparts," the group's director, Aaron Wudrick, said in a statement.
"Even worse, it appears that in most provinces, government employees are getting sicker every year."
The average number of sick days in the public sector has risen to 11.2 today from 10.5 in 2013, the report said.
Quebec had the highest rate of sick days for all government workers in the province in 2016, at 14.4 days per employee. But federal government workers in British Columbia took 17.9 sick days on average, the report said.
"It's not obvious what is making federal government employees in British Columbia or provincial government employees in Quebec so unhealthy that they need to take 18 sick days per year," Wudrick said. "But it is certainly an unhealthy development that governments should be cracking down on."
Some of the difference can be explained by the fact that private-sector employees often have limited or no sick days given. Labour lawyer Jason Beeho told Global News some private-sector workers go into work while sick in order to get paid.
And Statistics Canada has noted that there are age and gender differences between government and private-sector workers. Government workers tend to be older and more often female, and both groups tend to take more sick leave.
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Reforms coming to federal sick day policies
The federal Liberal government is in talks with public-sector unions on reforming the current sick-day policy, which allows workers to bank unused sick days for future years.
The previous Conservative government passed legislation to end the banking of sick days, arguing that the policy encourages absenteeism. It said the move would save the federal government $900 million per year.
But the new policy wasn't put into practice before the Liberals took the reins in 2015 and vowed to undo the Conservatives' changes.
The Liberals are now working towards a plan that would see banked sick days modified or eliminated entirely in future collective bargaining agreements. Though specifics are still unknown, the new plan will likely include a reformed short-term disability program.
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