Government employees taking more sick days than other Canadians: report

A report by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says government employees are taking more sick days than others. Getty Images

A report by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) has found that government employees in Canada are taking more sick days than private sector workers.

The report compiled using Statistics Canada findings was released Wednesday, and notes that the average private sector employee took about 6.8 sick days in 2016. Public sector employees took an average of 11.2.

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The director of CTF sounded off on the findings in a press release, saying the gap was “curious.”

“Even worse, it appears that in most provinces, government employees are getting sicker every year,” Aaron Wudrick said in the release.

In previous years, the trend has been largely similar. The report noted that since 2013, the average number of sick days that government workers have taken has risen from 10.5 to 11.2.

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WATCH: Public servants have taken more sick days in previous years, as well

A December 2016 report by the Fraser Institute found that government employees took more time off for personal reasons in 2015, about 13 days on average, compared to the approximately eight days those in private sector jobs took off.

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This week’s CTF report highlighted that the discrepancy exists throughout different levels of government in Canada. In Quebec, government sector workers took 14.4 sick days on average — 5.3 days more than their non-governmental counterparts.

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Another notable gap exists in New Brunswick, where government workers took 12.6 days versus others who took just over seven.

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Jason Beeho, a Toronto-based labour lawyer with Levitt LLP, said the difference in the number of sick days taken indicates some government employees may be abusing the system.

“It’s not surprising to me,” Beeho said, referring to the gap in sick days. “As a rule, the public sector tends to have more generous policies.”

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Beeho explained that there are often collective agreements, with a prescribed number of sick days per employee. Many of those sick days expire if they aren’t taken within a set timeframe.

“There can be a mentality of ‘OK, I’ve got these days. I might as well take them.'”

Private sector workers, on the other hand, may have very limited, or unpaid sick days. They may even be showing up to work when they are actually ill, Beeho said, because they need to be paid.

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Bridging the gap, or finding a solution, is difficult because that would likely require the public sector to walk back on its policies, Beeho notes.

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But he adds that workplaces should be proactive when addressing potential abuse of the system.

“It’s a matter of employers being vigilant, and training supervisors on how they administer sick day policies,” the lawyer said, elaborating that employees taking advantage of the system should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

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