Public/private sector sickness absence: the impossible divide

Can the gap between public and private sector sickness absence levels ever be closed?

Knott S, Hayday S | Opinion Paper OP18 | Institute for Employment Studies | Apr 2010

With public sector debt of £870 billion and the prospect of the toughest public spending cuts in 20 years, the much-publicised widening gap between public and private sickness absence levels urgently needed to be closed. But was this gap impossible to bridge?

IES reviewed the evidence for the gap and questioned whether it was actually getting wider. 

This article examines explanations for the differences between public and private sector performance and suggests that some simple changes in public sector policy and practice could make a very real difference, provided that the public sector follows the general public trend, selects the 'value' or 'basics' range of products, and makes the best use of 'well-worn clothes'.