Civil servants could have their pay docked for taking unjustified sick leave as part of a clampdown on the public sector's 'sicknote culture'.
According to the Sunday Times, ministers will announce plans this week to tighten the rules that allow people to certify themselves as too ill to work. Staff may have to ring their bosses daily to prove they are not faking illness.
Official figures show that the average civil servant in the UK took two weeks off sick last year, more than 40 per cent more than their private sector counterparts, costing the taxpayer some £4bn a year or the equivalent of an extra 1p on income tax.
The Times says that the a report from the Department for Work and Pensions has also identified a tendency towards a “Friday to Monday problem” in which workers take long weekends off, claiming they are ill.
Ministers have been tempted by a programme to tackle sickness absence launched by the supermarket chain Tesco. In some Tesco stores workers get no pay for the first three days they are ill, but after the fourth day pay begins again and there is compensation for the first three days.
But with such an approach likely only to tempt workers to stay off work for a whole week, rather than a couple of days, perhaps an initiative along the lines of the one adopted by York City council may prove to be more effective.