Absence levels in the public sector are higher than other sectors and are unlikely to reduce in the future, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) has warned.
The body’s annual absence survey shows that the most common cause of long-term absence among all employees is stress which is, in turn, often caused by organisational change and restructuring.
The figures show that 73% of manual and 79% of non-manual public sector employers rate stress as a top-five common cause of absence, compared to an average across all sectors of 51% and 63% respectively.
More than a third of all employers said stress-related absence has increased over the past year and is the main cause for persistently high levels of long-term public sector absence.
Just over half of public sector employers said organisational change and restructuring was a top-three cause of work-related stress, compared to a third in other sectors.
CIPD adviser Dr Jill Miller said the data showed why reducing public sector absences to private sector levels was so hard.
“Compared to the private sector, more public sector employees are in challenging public facing roles such as social work, policing, teaching and nursing where they often have to deal with people in difficult and emotionally charged situations, putting pressure on their time and resilience,” she said.
“In addition, organisational change and restructuring is cited more commonly by public sector employers than those in other sectors as a major cause of stress, which will only increase in the near future as a consequence of the recent comprehensive spending review.”