Public servants ‘gaming the system’ — take twice as many sick days as private sector workers: report

While the data is correct, the interpretation that most people ‘game the system’ is more anecdotal than evidence-based (some clearly do of course).

While I support changes that reduce such abuse, I would want to preserve provisions for sick day banking in cases of catastrophic illness (e.g., cancer):

And the article is silent on Canada’s public servants take up to twice the number of sick days a year as private sector workers do, because of different motivations, work cultures and rules that encourage “gaming the system,” says a new report by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

Phillip Cross, Statistics Canada’s former chief economic analyst, concludes in the report that the existing sick-leave regime in the federal government should be overhauled because attitudes and cultural practices “rather than biology and medicine” are at the root of the problem.

Cross, who made his name as a straight-shooting analyst, said a “sickness in the system” accounts for why public servants claim 10.5 days a year for illness while private sector employees average 6.4 days. The overall public sector – including education and health care workers – is close to the federal average at 10.6 days a year.

He said differences between the sectors are so significant that working in the public sector itself is a determinant of sick-leave use, rather than exposure to illness or injury.

‘I don’t want to sound like private sector workers are saints and public sector are sinners’

“I don’t want to sound like private sector workers are saints and public sector are sinners. If they had the same opportunity to game the system, I think it is human nature to take advantage of it, and the opportunities for gaming are much easier in the federal government,” said Cross.

“The rules allow people who want to work as little as possible to succeed. Is it the system or the individual? It’s a bit of both.”

The study was based on data from Statistics Canada’s labour force survey, which includes all full-time employees other than the self-employed. The survey’s finding of federal employees taking 10.5 days a year is in line with the 10.3 days that a Parliamentary Budget Office report found several years ago.

Cross’s study found the gap between the private and public sectors has also been widening. Public servants took an average of 7.2 days off in 1987 – including federal employees – compared to 10.6 days today. Most of that increase came after 1995. At the same time, private sector employees take 6.4 days, the same as they did 27 years ago.

Source: Public servants ‘gaming the system’ — take twice as many sick days as private sector workers: report

Think tank names Supreme Court of Canada ‘policy-maker of the year’

Interesting comments coming from Benjamin Perrin, former legal adviser in PMO:

Mr. Perrin said the government’s biggest concern from its year of overwhelming defeats will be that its agenda is grinding to a halt. If that agenda “continues to be unravelled by the courts, it’s actually not governing the way that it wants to. It’s also politically quite embarrassing, and if people begin to think that the government is not understanding what the law is, and it’s not able to govern effectively, that becomes a very serious concern.”

Clarissa Lamb, a justice department spokesperson, defended the government’s record in court cases. “The federal government is involved in over 50,000 litigation cases every year. Our government is proud of our litigation record.”

The report sheds some light, if indirectly, on Prime Minister Harper’s decision last spring to accuse Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of inappropriate conduct. Mr. Perrin called the Prime Minister’s decision to engage in a public dispute with the Chief Justice “a symptom of the frustration that’s likely setting in.” The International Commission of Jurists criticized Mr. Harper over the accusation, which it found baseless.

Chief Justice McLachlin was the sole author of four of the 10 rulings, and wrote opinions in two more.

Mr. Perrin suggests the problem might lie in the quality of legal advice from the justice department or whether the government is heeding that advice. The government might consider retaining “eminent outside counsel” to argue some cases, he said. Until an internal review is done of its litigation strategy, it would be premature to conclude the losing streak is caused by a “fundamental rift in values between the federal government and the court,” the report said.

As Justice legal opinions are protected by ATIP, we will never know the degree to which the problem is the legal opinion or political willingness to accept it.

Perrin, given his experience in PMO, should have been able to provide some insights on where the ‘blame’ lies.

Not convinced that hiring outside counsel will improve things if the government is not willing to listen.

Think tank names Supreme Court of Canada ‘policy-maker of the year’ – The Globe and Mail.

Book Excerpt: Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias in Inside Policy

My excerpt, from the Anecdote or Evidence chapter, of my book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism, in The MacDonald-Laurier Institute‘s bimonthly publication, Inside Policy. Direct link to November issue (pdf, see page 30 for excerpt below):

Inside Policy November 2013