Teachers’ sick days cost Ontario school boards nearly $1B: report
According to media reports a new study finds teachers are taking more sick days now that they can’t bank them and cash them out when they retire.
In 2014-15 Ontario teachers and education workers took an average of 10.29 sick days each. Four years ago, when they could still bank sick days, they took an average of 8.86 days.
The report suggests the increase is costing school boards close to $1-billion dollars a year because they have to pay for replacement teachers as well. The government negotiated to get rid of the sick bank payout in 2012.
“There’s a savings every year in the sense that when teachers retire they are not being paid out in a lump sum,” said Premier Kathleen Wynne.
The Globe and Mail said it obtained a copy of the report by the School Boards’ Co-Operative Inc.
The group declined to release it to Global News.
Paid sick days among government employees has long been a bone of contention.
A study by the MacDonald-Laurier Institute found that, on average, private sector workers take 6.4 days a year, compared to public sector workers who average 10.6 days.
“It doesn’t seem to be because it’s more germs. There seems to be a strong behavioral component and that’s consistent with what was found for the Ontario teachers,” said Philip Cross, senior fellow with the institute.
It can be difficult for any employer, whether public or private sector, to determine if an employee is legitimately sick, especially when it is a day here or there.
“An employee will call in sick without any further information or documentation to support that absence,” said Jonquille Pak, an employment lawyer and partner at Whitten & Lublin.
She said employers have to start with a frank conversation with their employees.
The government did the right thing in getting rid of the sick days bank, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“It’s certainly suspicious that once the bankable aspect of sick days was removed that teachers suddenly got a lot sicker relative to how sick they were before,” said Christine Van Geyn, the group’s Ontario director.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario were not available for comment while the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation did not respond to an interview request.
Meanwhile, the premier insisted the government can show they’re saving money.
“We can get you the exact comparison of the numbers,” said Wynne.
The Ministry of Education said Tuesday night that getting rid of the sick days bank and curtailing retirement gratuities saved $264 million in 2014-15 and $231 million the year before.