Questions over sick leave taken by food and hygiene staff

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 November, 2010, 12:00am

Staff at the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department are taking more sick leave than the average civil servant, but unions say it is because frontline employees are more prone to work injuries.

The finding was given in a report issued yesterday by the director of audit, who urged the department to check whether there were any abuses of the system.

According to government statistics, in the past five years the department's staff took an average of 8.85 days of sick leave a year, compared with 5.21 days for civil servants in general.

Junior frontline staff took even more - last year 6,400 employees applied for a total of 65,000 days' sick leave, 10.16 each. The department said this was because its employees were more likely to work outdoors and do labour-intensive jobs. Also, 58 per cent of its staff members were over 50, much higher than the 29 per cent in the civil service as a whole.

Wong Wah-hing, chairman of the hawker control team sub-union at the Government Frontline Employees' Union, said while he could not guarantee that there was no abuse, the picture was not as bad as the audit report presented.

'There were nearly 400 cases of work injuries last year. Employees, especially the older ones, need plenty of time to rest,' he said.

Also, Wong said: 'Older buildings do not have a centralised garbage collection system. Most people just put large and heavy rubbish bags in the streets. Employees in these districts need to remove them frequently.'