Taxpayers should be “alarmed” by the 1.8 million days lost to long-term sick leave by the civil service in 2022, MPs have warned.
The number of days lost to long-term sick leave in the civil service has risen by a third in the past four years, fresh figures discovered through a parliamentary question by the Liberal Democrats found.
Civil service staff lost 1.86 million days lost to long-term sick leave in 2022, up from 1.39 million in 2018.
Tory MP Greg Smith said: “These are very concerning figures that should alarm taxpayers and Ministers alike.
“Of course people with genuine long term sickness need the time to recover, but there seems no rational explanation for the substantive rise in long term sickness among the civil service compared to other parts of the public sector and private sector.
“This definitely needs looking into.”
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) lost 596,420 days to long-term sick leave, more than any other department.
This was followed by the Department of Work and Pensions which lost 383,320 days to long-term sick leave, followed by HM Revenue and Customs at 243,040 and the Ministry of Defence at 149,690.
Former Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “The high levels of sickness in the public sector are a cause of concern.
“It seems unlikely that public servants are much less healthy than those in the private sector so there is probably a degree of malingering.”
The MoJ also had the highest overall rate of long-term sick leave compared to the size of the department, with 7.4 days lost per staff year.
This was followed by the Scottish Government (5.9 days per staff year) and Department for Transport (5.9 days per staff year).
The Department Culture Media and Sport had the lowest rate of long-term sickness with just 1.4 days lost per staff year, five times less than the MoJ.
Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office Spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: “These figures are deeply concerning and show there is a growing long-term sickness crisis at the heart of government.
“Ministers need to look into why civil servants are losing so many days to long-term sick leave and whether they are receiving the support they need.
“Conservative ministers need to do more to tackle soaring rates of long-term sick leave in their own departments and across the country.”
The number of Britons off work because of long-term sickness has reached record levels, figures from last year showed.
More than 2.5 million people were not working because of health problems, statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) from May showed.
There has been an increase in people suffering from post viral fatigue, which could be reflecting the impact of long Covid on the population.
The rise in back and neck problems could be due to home working, the ONS added.
The Cabinet Office has been contacted for a comment.