News Story

Government Workers Average Twice As Many Sick Days Per Year As Private-Sector Employees

Average state employee takes 10 sick days per year vs. four days in private industry

The average state worker in Michigan is taking as many as five times more sick days than a worker in the hospitality and leisure industry or a construction worker and more than twice as many sick days as many other workers in the private sector, according to state and national reports.

State workers have called in sick on average between 9.4 to 11 days a year over the past five years, according to the Michigan Civil Service Commission annual workforce report. The report applies only to workers directly employed by the state; not public school teachers or local government workers.

"That's good work if you can get it," said Charles Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. "I don't think that would be sustainable in the private sector."

Private industry workers in the financial activities, information industry, trade, transportation and utilities and professional and business services used about four sick days a year, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report

Workers in the leisure and hospitality industry and those in the construction industry used about two sick days a year.

Jason Ford, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said the study was based on 2009 data and was the most recent available on private industry.

State employees can get as many as 12 sick days a year, said Matt Fedorchuk, acting deputy director for the Michigan Civil Service Commission. Fedorchuk said sick days can't be cashed out at severance for employees hired after 1980.

Government union representatives did not respond to a request for comment. 

In 2011-12, the average state employee used 11 sick days on top of 18.2 vacation days.

The sick days drive up the cost of government, said Leon Drolet, chair of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance.

"It's an incredibly high average," Drolet said of the number of days sick. "I would hope for the sake of the workers that they really aren't sick that much."

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.