Civil servants working while sick or on holiday to manage workloads, survey finds

Written by Suzannah Brecknell on 11 May 2017 in News
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FDA union calls for more investment in the civil service, as survey shows that 91% of senior managers regularly work more than their contracted hours

Photo: PA

Over two-thirds of senior managers have worked while on sick or annual leave in the last 12 months, according to a survey released today by the FDA union.

Half of the 1,400 officials surveyed were not able to take all of their annual leave entitlement in the last year – mainly because of heavy workloads – while nine out of ten said they regularly worked more than their contracted hours.

The findings echo CSW research from late 2016, which found that civil servants were worried about taking sick leave due to heavy workloads.


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Over a quarter of respondents to the FDA survey said they work more than nine hours overtime each week – meaning they regularly add an extra, unpaid, day to their working week.

Nearly one in ten respondents (8%) said they are working an additional 15 hours above their contracted hours every week and 41% are working more than six hours extra each week.

 Over two-thirds (67%) of those surveyed said that long working hours are a problem in their department, but only 17% say their employer has taken steps to address the issue.

One FDA member said: "Working excessive hours is largely ignored by senior management, mainly because they are also working long days so it is becoming the norm. I sometimes feel that it isn't worth taking time off because the amount you have to catch up on puts additional pressure on an already busy job."

Speaking today at the union’s annual conference, FDA general secretary Dave Penman called on the government to invest in the civil service as it prepares to enter Brexit negotiations.

Penman said: "For all the rhetoric around ‘leadership’ and being ‘bloody difficult’, it will be the hard and complex work of civil servants that will determine the outcome of these negotiations.

"And if they are to be a success, then Britain needs a strong civil service. A strong civil service that can support the negotiations, prepare for and implement the outcome whilst at the same time, delivering high quality public services."

He continued: "You don't get a strong civil service if a quarter of staff are working the equivalent of a six-day week and one in ten is working the equivalent of a seven-day week. That's what our latest survey of members' working hours has shown.

 "You don't get a strong civil service by holding back pay increases for nearly a decade, meaning some staff are taking home less money than they did in 2010 while a quarter of Senior Civil Service job vacancies are going unfilled, mainly due to a lack of competitive pay.

"And you don't get a strong civil service by sending out former ministers to tramp around the TV studios trashing the reputation of civil servants for having the audacity to speak truth unto power, whilst ministers stay silent, refusing to voice their support and giving those attacks their tacit approval.

"Britain needs a strong civil service and the civil service needs investment. Investment in people, skills, and yes, a decent pay rise. Investment to deliver the most successful outcome possible from our exit from the EU, but also investment to deliver the quality public services our citizens deserve.”

About the author

Suzannah Brecknell is CSW's senior reporter. She tweets as @SuzannahCSW

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