Sick Leave Fraud – Spike in leave before and after weekends and holidays

Public servants, especially those living along the coast, take more sick leave than employees in the private sector, with a spike in days off before and after weekends and holidays, a report has found.

The NSW Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat, has found that, despite efforts to reduce the high level of sick leave, there has been a drop of only 1.84 hours, or just one-quarter of a day, since 2004/5.

This was much less than the target of a reduction of one day over this period, which would have saved taxpayers $45 million, he said.

Abuse of sick leave needs to be addressed properly” he said.

On average, public servants take just over eight days’ sick leave annually, he said.

The highest sick leave taken was recorded by the NSW Fire Brigades at 95.3 hours, which is significantly more than the next highest group, Ambulance NSW, at 79.8 hours and Juvenile Justice at 78.6 hours.

The report also found that the more public servants are paid, the less sick leave they take and that sick leave increased with age and with length of service.

The higher the sick leave entitlement, the more sick leave was taken, the report noted.

Mr Achterstraat called for supervisors to more actively monitor and manage staff suspected of abusing sick leave and to have clear rules for managing absence.

The key barriers in reducing sick leave were an ageing workforce, an industrial environment which slows workplace reform, and an entitlement culture where staff think they must ‘use it or lose it’” the report noted.

The director general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet said programs were being pursued to reduce sick leave to 45.06 hours per employee, as part of recent wages agreements.

The Auditor-General has called for a “name and shame” list to be published by the government, which is likely to occur next year.

(Source: “Sickies by the seaside: report points the finger”, SMH 8/12/10, Brian Robins)

About Rushmore Forensic

Andrew Firth is a Director of Rushmore Forensic.  He specialises at using advanced data mining routines to detect payroll fraud. He is a forensic accountant based in Sydney, and is a regular speaker on payroll and other forensic accounting issues.

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