Five extra public sector sick days costing Canadians up to $3.5 billion

Toronto, December 4, 2012 – Public sector employees in Canada take nearly five more sick, disability and personal days per year than Canadians working in the private sector, at an annual cost of up to $3.5 billion, says Calling in Sick, a report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“I don’t think anybody believes that public sector workers just get sick more often, yet something makes them feel entitled to more time off,” said CFIB president and CEO Dan Kelly. “Obviously, we want to be compassionate when people are truly not well, but the current system has entrenched a feeling of entitlement to those days off that has very little to do with being sick.”

In addition, some public sector workers have the option to “bank” unused sick days, then take a lump-sum payment or use the days to retire early. Workers who manage to stay healthy can build up months of extra time off and/or pay.

Federal government employees take the most time off by a wide margin, averaging 15.2 sick, disability and personal days per year. The overall public sector average is 12.9 days, compared to 8.2 days in the private sector. There are also variances within the private sector, depending on the size of the employer. Employees in businesses with fewer than 20 employees averaged 6.7 days off, while those in firms with more than 500 employees took 9.1 days, which is still considerably lower than the public sector average.

The report makes a number of recommendations to address the current disparity. Chief among them is a call for sick day allotments to be aligned with those offered in the private sector, and for the accumulation of unused sick days to be discontinued.

“We think sick days should be used only when you’re sick,” added Kelly. “The numbers suggest that’s not always happening in the public sector, and that’s not fair. We need to change the system so everybody’s playing by the same rules.”

For more information, please contact Gisele Lumsden at 416-222-8022 or by email at public.affairs@cfib.ca.

As Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses, CFIB is Powered by Entrepreneurs™. Established in 1971, CFIB takes direction from more than 109,000 members in every sector nationwide, giving independent business a strong and influential voice at all levels of government and helping to grow the economy.

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