10 Unscheduled absence

  • 65.2 hrs

    per FTE for NSW public sector employees in 2018

By age

  • <50 yrs

    57.6 hrs

    per FTE of PUA in 2018

  • 50+ yrs

    77.7 hrs

    per FTE of PUA in 2018

By salary

  • <$100 k

    67.8 hrs

    per FTE of PUA in 2018

  • +$100 k

    60 hrs

    per FTE of PUA in 2018

Paid unscheduled absence (PUA) is a measure of paid working hours lost due to sickness or caring for an immediate family or household member. As an indicator of both the productivity and health of a workforce, PUA is a key metric for effective workforce planning.

In 2018, the total number of hours of PUA in the NSW public sector was 19,881,475, an increase of 1.7% from the previous year. The number of hours of PUA per FTE was 65.2, an increase of 1.0 hour per FTE from the previous year (see Table 10.1).

Table 10.1 Paid unscheduled absence (total hours and hours per FTE), total public sector, 2013–2018

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Hours per FTE (non-casual) 62.3 63.7 65.1 67.1 64.1 65.2
Change from previous year (hours) 0.9 1.5 1.3 2.0 -3.0 1.0
PUA (hours) 19,014,400 19,484,099 19,878,307 20,512,427 19,548,742 19,881,475
Percentage change from previous year 1.2 2.5 2.0 3.2 -4.7 1.7

Most services experienced an increase in PUA relative to the previous year (see Table 10.2). The highest increases were in the external to government sector (2.6 hours), the NSW Police Force (2.3 hours) and the Transport Service (2.1 hours). Increases were spread across much of the sector, with 68.3% of agencies experiencing an increase in PUA per FTE. Increases were primarily modest, with one in five agencies increasing by more than 7.0 hours per FTE. Rates of PUA decreased in some services, including other Crown services (-0.6 hours), where NSW Trains and Sydney Trains (-1.7 hours), and Insurance and Care NSW (-6.2 hours) all experienced decreases; and State owned corporations (-2.2 hours), due to a decrease among Sydney Water Corporation employees (-4.6 hours).

Table 10.2 Paid unscheduled absence by service, 2017–18

Service 2017 FTE 2018 FTE 2017 hours per FTE 2018 hours per FTE Change (hours)
Public Service 58,461 58,091 68.8 69.9 1.1
NSW Health Service 106,540 109,184 61.7 63.1 1.4
NSW Police Force 19,264 19,290 65.0 67.3 2.3
Teaching Service 59,697 60,824 60.6 61.5 0.9
Transport Service 13,172 13,506 62.3 64.4 2.1
Other Crown services 34,970 35,933 71.3 70.7 -0.6
Total government sector 292,102 296,829 64.3 65.4 1.1
State owned corporations 11,567 7,250 61.4 59.2 -2.2
External to government sector 1,132 978 49.5 52.0 2.6
Total public sector 304,801 305,058 64.1 65.2 1.1

The direction of change in PUA per FTE from 2017 to 2018 was not consistent across occupation groups (see Table 10.3). There were decreases for Machinery Operators and Drivers (-0.7 hours) and Managers (-0.1 hours) but increases for Clerical and Administrative Workers (2.5 hours), Technician and Trades Workers (1.9 hours), Professionals (1.2 hours), Labourers (1.3 hours), and Community and Personal Service Workers (0.7 hours).

Table 10.3 Paid unscheduled absence by occupation groups, 2017–181

ANZSCO major group 2017 FTE 2018 FTE 2017 hours Per FTE 2018 hours per FTE Change (hours)
Technicians And Trades Workers 15,013 12,789 69.3 71.3 1.9
Professionals 148,456 151,252 58.9 60.1 1.2
Managers 18,919 20,234 52.5 52.4 -0.1
Machinery Operators And Drivers 10,056 9,962 83.8 83.1 -0.7
Labourers 12,169 11,927 73.8 75.1 1.3
Community And Personal Service Workers 50,406 48,852 73.8 74.5 0.7
Clerical And Administrative Workers 49,566 49,839 66.4 69.0 2.5
Total Public Sector 304,801 305,058 64.1 65.2 1.1

The Professionals occupation group accounted for nearly half of the sector workforce and includes roles such as teachers, nurses and medical practitioners. Around 78.3% of occupations in this group experienced an increase in hours of PUA per FTE compared to 2017. However, increases were primarily moderate. Only one in nine of these occupations had an increase of more than 7.0 hours per FTE, and fewer than one in three increased more than 3.5 hours per FTE. School Teachers and Midwifery and Nursing Professionals contribute around half of the overall increase in PUA hours of the Professionals group due to the size of these cohorts, but their rate of PUA only increased 1.2 hours per FTE.

Clerical and Administrative Workers is the second largest occupation group and experienced the highest average increase in PUA hours per FTE (2.5 hours). Increases were experienced across 83.3% of occupations in this group, and one in five increased more than 3.5 hours per FTE.

Remuneration

Managers had the lowest overall rate of PUA with 52.4 hours per FTE in 2018, a slight decrease from 2017. Prior analysis has established there is a link between remuneration and PUA. Consistent with the trend of earlier years, in 2018 those with a salary of $100,000 or more took 7.8 hours less leave per FTE than those on lower salaries (60 hours per FTE versus 67.8 hours respectively).

Data on employee perceptions of support for and access to flexible work arrangements, collected in the 2018 sector-wide People Matter Employee Survey, shows that respondents earning over $105,409 were more satisfied with access to flexible work arrangements than those earning under $105,409 (63.0% versus 58.0%). Also, a higher proportion of higher salary earners than lower salary earners reported using one or more flexible work option (66.6% versus 58.4%), and a higher proportion reported having manager support for flexible working in their team (68.3% versus 61.7%). It is possible that access to flexible working arrangements such as working from home may be a factor in the lower rate of PUA in this group.

Age

There is a well-established link between age and the rate of PUA. Consistent with the trend seen in earlier years, average hours per FTE for those aged 50 and over is 20 hours higher than those under 50 in 2018 (77.7 hours per FTE compared to 57.6 hours per FTE respectively). This increase in hours per FTE is incremental across most of the five-year age bands, although can be seen to flatten out in among those aged 35 to 50 (see Figure 10.1).

 

Comparing 2017 to 2018, PUA increased in all five-year age bands, with the lowest increases seen in the ‘50 to 54’ and ‘60 to 64’ age ranges.

Table 10.4 Paid unscheduled absence by age, 2017–182

Age 2017 FTE 2018 FTE 2017 hours per FTE 2018 hours per FTE Change (hours)
15 to 19 217 287 38.6 42.8 4.2
20 to 24 8,544 9,040 43.2 43.9 0.7
25 to 29 30,288 30,845 48.3 49.2 0.9
30 to 34 34,907 35,973 56.1 56.8 0.7
35 to 39 34,275 35,054 59.7 61.1 1.4
40 to 44 37,388 36,516 59.3 60.7 1.3
45 to 49 41,806 42,282 59.9 61.8 1.9
50 to 54 39,689 38,274 64.7 64.8 0.0
55 to 59 41,413 39,714 74.6 75.4 0.8
60 to 64 25,336 25,390 87.3 87.9 0.5
65 plus 10,899 11,647 101.6 105.5 3.9
Total public sector 304,801 305,058 64.1 65.2 1.1

Notes

1 Sales Workers has been excluded due to the small size of the group, so totals do not match total sector figures
2 Records where age is unknown are included in total sector figures – 0.01% of total records in 2017 and 2018