Wholesome team building and ergonomic chairs are key to reducing employees’ sick days, says the federal agency with the lowest absentee rate in the Government of Canada. The Military Police Complaints Commission also credited staff picnics with boosting attendance at work.
“The Commission prides itself on promotion of informal team building activities such as staff-initiated fitness classes, picnics, potlucks and other activities,” said spokesperson Michael Tansey. Many activities occurred off work, he said.
Employees at the Commission average 6.1 sick days a year, the lowest rate in the public service according to Access To Information records. The Copyright Board had the second-lowest absentee rate, 7.6 days a year per employee.
“Physical wellness is also important,” said Tansey. “This was a key consideration during recent renovations.” The Commission encourages employees to use “sit-stand stations wherever possible”, and avoids unnecessary staff meetings.
“The Commission also launched an Elephant In The Room anti-stigma campaign by placing blue elephants in various common areas to send the message that the Commission is a safe place to talk about mental illness,” he said; “It provides staff with important strategies to support a psychologically safe and healthy workplace.”
One obscure agency, the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat, reported the highest number of employee sick days – 18.4 a year per person, on average. The Secretariat did not comment.
Second-highest sick rates were reported by the Canada Border Services Agency, 15.3 days a year. “Most employees operate on a shift work schedule,” said spokesperson Nicholas Dorion. “Shift work environments typically have higher sick leave usage than those with a steady work schedule.”
Dorion noted federal employees are entitled to 15 cumulative sick days a year to cover short-term illness. Leave at other departments and agencies averaged 14 a year at Veterans Affairs Canada; 13 at the departments of employment, national defence and fisheries; and 12.5 at Library and Archives Canada.
Statistics Canada in a 2013 report Understanding Public-Private Sector Differences In Work Absences said while government workers took 6 more sick days a year on average compared to the private sector, data were skewed by demographics. Civil servants tend to be older, and are more typically women who “take on more family responsibilities”, the report said.
By Jason Unrau