Sep 20, 2013

Stats Can rebuts CFIB on public sector sick leave


Yesterday Statistics Canada published a nice counterpoint to part of the relentless drumbeat against public employees by organizations like the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

Last December the CFIB published a report noting the horrifying finding that when it came to sick, disability and personal days off, public sector workers averaged 12.9 days compared to 8.2 days in the private sector.  The report suggested the difference was “pure entitlement.” The CFIB said provisions should be aligned with the private sector and that accumulation of sick days should be eliminated or limited for public sector employees.

The September 19 edition of the Statistics Canada Daily, however, suggests there just might be a reason for the difference in sick leave use.  The Daily reports:

The difference can be attributed to several factors, as the public sector workforce tends to be older, more female and more unionized. Accounting for these factors reduces the gap in work absences between public and private sector employees by approximately 80%, or from 4.1 days to 0.8 days.

Overall, unionized full-time employees missed an average of 12.9 days for personal reasons in 2012, compared with 7.5 days for their non-unionized counterparts. Unionized employees in both the public and private sector took more days off than their non-unionized counterparts.

Full-time employees aged 55 to 64 missed 12.4 days on average, compared with 6.1 days for those aged 20 to 24. Women missed 11.4 days, compared with 7.6 days for men.

An earlier Stats Can report dug a little bit deeper into the numbers and further undermines the CFIB’s complaints.  The April 2102 report found that the highest rate of days lost per year was in the health and social assistance sector.  Nurses, who actually work with sick people, lost 15.8 days per year.  Large employers (more than 500) average 11.1 lost times days per year compared to 7.5 where there are less than 20 employees.  People who have been on the job longer take more sick time than people with less tenure.  This is true in both the public and private sectors.

Public sector workers tend to be more female, older, have more tenure and to work in larger organizations.  Many of them work in environments like hospitals and schools where there is more sickness.  And yes, unions protect people when they are sick or injured whether they are in the public or private sector.

How did the CFIB respond to the information from Statistics Canada?  The CFIB’s Catherine Swift tweeted, “Statcan confirms more sick time taken in pub sector, but tries 2 explain some of it away by meaningless factors. Politically motivated? Odd.”

Well, perhaps more politically inconvenient for the CFIB than odd.  The long form census was inconvenient too.  Let’s hope the release of information like this doesn’t lead to more attacks on Statistics Canada.