Saskatchewan’s auditor says she is concerned about the number of sick days being taken, particularly by workers in the province’s health-care and gaming sectors.

Provincial auditor Judy Ferguson highlighted employee absenteeism at the Heartland Regional Health Authority and Saskatchewan Gaming Corp. in her annual report released Tuesday. She said she zeroed in on both because Statistics Canada suggests workers in health and social assistance have the highest rate of absenteeism.

Read: What do Canadian provinces offer around sick, emergency leave?

Heartland was in the middle of the pack when it came to sick leave among regional health authorities, but Ferguson said the issue applies, albeit more broadly, to other health regions.

“It’s a concern from two aspects: One is when you have too much absenteeism, it affects your workplace environment,” Ferguson told the Canadian Press. “Secondly, it results in additional costs being incurred.”

Her report suggests that the average Heartland employee takes an average of about 10.5 sick days each year. That’s partly due to injuries, but the report also notes employee absenteeism can lead to additional worker fatigue and stress. The financial cost in Heartland was at least $1.3 million, based on the health authority spending 1.5 per cent of salaries on overtime costs to cover sick employees.

“They can’t just leave the positions vacant so they are always backfilling,” Ferguson said.

Beth Vachon, a vice-president with the new Saskatchewan Health Authority, said her group will be able to look at the issue more broadly now that the province has a single health authority rather than 12. She said she doesn’t think Heartland’s numbers are indicative of a larger problem across the health regions. “Is it reasonable? It’s hard to say without knowing the circumstances.”

Read: More workers taking fake sick days, providing wild excuses

 

Karen Wasylenko, president of the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan, said the issue has been raised before in an annual report for the Heartland health region and across the province. “When you’re ill, you’re ill — especially if you’ve got chronic illness,” said Wasylenko, who suggested the report is indicative of a larger problem. “When you have vacancies or you have overtime, that lends more pressures on those left behind to do the work.”

Ferguson has recommended that human resources promote the importance of employee attendance and give supervising managers additional tools to deal with absent workers.

Saskatchewan Gaming did better in some areas, but she said both the health region and the gaming corporation need to do more to analyze why workers are absent.

“They do track costs related to unscheduled absences,” said Ferguson, who noted those costs are 2.2 per cent of salaries and benefits. “That’s about $820,000.”

A spokeswoman for the Saskatchewan Gaming Corp. said it takes the report’s recommendations seriously. “We’re going to take the recommendations and pull together an action plan that we’re hoping to have ready to go and rolled out to our managers and staff at some point in the new year,” said Shanna Schulhauser.

Other issues raised in Ferguson’s report include followup audits on improving rehabilitation of adult offenders and coming up with ways to manage court workloads. Both of the issue relate to concerns about staff workloads and increased overtime hours.

Read: Should sick leave be separate from other types of paid time off?

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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