ALLIANCE Assembly member Seamus Close has criticised Finance Minister Ian Pearson after he branded high sickness levels amongst civil servants as unacceptable.
After a study of sick leave found civil servants took an average of 15.5 days off a year, the Minister is reported to have said: “My ministerial colleagues and I are determined to address this unacceptably high level of sickness absence and will be working closely with officials to examine the report in detail and consider what further actions need to be taken.”
Mr Close stated:
“I find the recent report on the rise in civil service sickness levels absolutely incredible and the reaction of the Minister, Mr Pearson, typical of this remote control regime.”
“Now it must be remembered that Mr Pearson is supposed to be the Minister for Finance and Personnel and that as far back as 1998 – over six years ago – this department issued a new staff handbook which sets out the terms and conditions of service for civil servants. This handbook emphasises the importance of departments and agencies having a clear framework for managing sickness absence.
“Obviously management is not managing effectively. Furthermore, in July 2003, the NI Audit Office examined the management of industrial sickness absence and found that essentially weak management was responsible. They concluded ‘the need is not so much for more rules, as for better application of existing procedures’.
“Perhaps Mr Pearson should read the staff handbook and also read the audit report of 2003 and start taking action rather than continuing to feed the public empty and meaningless words.”