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Personal leave in the public service: something employees are entitled to take

YESTERDAY Auditor General Mike Blake claimed public sector workers had a culture of entitlement – for taking the sick, carers and domestic violence leave they are entitled to.

Personal leave is a basic entitlement and our Members have every right to make use of it if they are unwell or need to look after someone close to them. To say that there is a “culture of entitlement” is inappropriate.

In fact all Australian workers, apart from casual workers have access to personal leave – it’s something that union members have fought for and won over decades.

In 2013 as part of public sector bargaining, the CPSU put forward a range of measures aimed at reducing the cost of absences.  These suggestions were embraced by the government of the time but have been abandoned by the Hodgman government since it came to office.  The CPSU would like to see a greater focus on getting employees back to productive work after an illness or injury, even if that means performing alternative duties for a period of time.  We also believe there should a greater focus on supporting employees who are away from work, keeping them involved in workplace activities where possible.

Meanwhile cuts to the public sector have meant fewer people are expected to do more work. Many go over and above and put in extra hours out of sheer goodwill – something that the recent Biosecurity Tasmania survey highlighted for just one small pocket of the service. It’s no wonder people are getting sick and burnt out with this extra burden, our Members are bearing the weight of an under resourced public sector every day.

CPSU General Secretary Tom Lynch told the media yesterday that “one of the inevitable consequences of the cuts that have been made to the Tasmanian public sector over the past 3-4 years is that managers have less time available to actively manage issues such as absenteeism”. “This, coupled with higher levels of stress arising from work overload, has clearly had an impact on the overall costs and will only be addressed through additional resources dedicated to this issue.”

The CPSU also highlighted that the report showed that the cost of personal leave was no higher than any other jurisdiction.

The language in the Auditor-General’s report was quite sensational, it talks about average personal leave in dollar terms instead of the number of days or hours of absence.  Given the vast majority of absences are not backfilled it’s also wrong to refer to the cost of absenteeism – most workers have to pick up work they didn’t do when absent sick when they return.

Find the report here under Recent Publications. 

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