PM: Too much sick leave
GOVERNMENT is having a long, hard look at the problem of a high incidence of sick leave across the Public Service.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who made the disclosure in the House of Assembly yesterday, said the problem was “acute” and adversely impacted productivity.
He conceded that some of the physical and environmental conditions under which public servants had to work were “not ideal” but asserted that the “sick leave challenge was not one which we can ignore”.
Stuart, who has responsibility for the Public Service, told parliamentarians he had asked the Ministry of the Civil Service to give him “some idea” as to the amount of sick leave taken in the public service because several department heads had complained over the years about how it was used.
Noting it was a problem that also dogged the private sector, Stuart said certain medical practitioners had been identified as the “sick leave doctors” – the ones to be visited “if you want sick leave”.
“The sick leave problem is an acute one and in many respects is linked to the issue of productivity in the Public Service . . . ,” he said.
Government had to satisfy itself “that sick leave is not being abused,” Stuart added.
He was leading off debate on a resolution seeking approval of the Public Service (General) (Amendment) Order, 2011 dealing with the upgrade of several senior posts.
Stuart said another problem that was part of the “culture” of the Public Service was the way employees “randomly” took leave accumulated over several months.
According to him, some public servants “accumulate large amounts of holiday” and then take it “stochastically, very randomly, over a period of time – two days here, three days next week, two days the following week or the following month”.
This had the potential “to be very chaotic in terms of the functioning of our departments in terms of the decision-making process”, he noted.Stuart said there had to be some way in which the annual taking of holiday “can be so managed that it is less traumatic to the daily workings of the public service”.
Despite the “challenges”, Barbados’ public service, about 28 000 people, was “the best” in the English-speaking Caribbean, Stuart declared. Over time, it had become “better and better” and “rendered exemplary stewardship in the context of all of these challenges in an independent Barbados”, he said.
He described the service as well organized, disciplined, highly intelligent, well trained, reliable and dependable. (TY)