Gateway Gazette

Banked sick days costing Government of Alberta millions

Bulk of the liability-$96 million- lies with Alberta Health Services (AHS) 

Calgary – The practice of government employees “banking” sick days left the Alberta government with a $114 million liability in 2013-2014, according to the latest research from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Banking means that if an employee doesn’t use all their allotted sick days in a year, they can save them for later.

“Although core provincial employees are thankfully not able to bank sick days, other government sector workers are benefiting from cushy sick day provisions. Having a safety net in place in case employees get sick in the short-term is obviously a responsible thing to do. However, the practice of banking sick days raises questions as to whether they are being used for purposes that may not be related to illness,” said Amber Ruddy, CFIB’s Alberta Director. “Some employees at AHS are able to bank up to 120 sick days, and that’s unacceptable. These are exactly the kind of policies government should be looking to reform to cut costs and restore economic confidence as part of the plan to get back to balance.”

Nearly 30 per cent government plans across Canada allow for banking sick days, versus less than three per cent of private sector plans.

Provincial governments in Quebec and Saskatchewan allow unlimited sick day banking for their employees, while the government of Newfoundland and Labrador limits their workers to bank 240 days at a time. Quebec currently owes its employees $829 million in banked sick days (sick day liability), more than any other province. Quebec government employees can also choose to receive a cash payout worth 50 per cent of the total value of their banked sick days upon retirement or termination — up to three months’ salary – or early retirement using their banked sick days.

“Sick days are supposed to be for when you’re sick. Governments have set up a system where some workers may be using banked sick days for extra time off when they are not ill. We need to fix the system so that everyone is playing by the same rules,” added Ruddy. “Governments at all levels should move to eliminate sick day banking, and introduce affordable short-term disability plans for public sector workers to better align sick leave provisions with those in the private sector.” 

 

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.

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