Oct 31, 2016
By RACHEL CISTO
Notwithstanding a survey by the largest city police union earlier this year indicating a serious morale problem among its members, police officers had a lower sick-leave rate than other uniformed employees and the entire civilian workforce, and 48 percent of them took no sick days at all in the past fiscal year, according to the Independent Budget Office.
Even factoring in time lost to line-of-duty injuries, police officers of all ranks missed less than 3 percent of their scheduled work hours in fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30. The 10 employees who took the most sick time accounted for 69 percent of the Police Department total, the IBO report found.
Injury Factor in FDNY
The other uniformed services had sick rates of between 6 and 7 percent, compared to 3.8 percent for civilians in the city workforce, including those employed by the uniformed agencies. While firefighters had a slightly higher sick-leave rate than sanitation workers and correction officers—7 percent compared to 6 and 6.3 percent, respectively—when on-the-job injuries were excluded from the calculation, the firefighter sick rate was just 2.4 percent. The civilian sick rate citywide was 3.8 percent.
Sick leave among uniformed workers “is a key driver of city overtime spending,” wrote Bernard O’Brien, the author of the report, which relied on statistics from the Mayor’s Management Report. Their agencies generally require a set number of workers per shift, and if someone is out sick, that employee is typically replaced by someone working an overtime tour or detailed from another uniformed assignment. But the conditions of their job, including outdoor work even in bad weather, also help explain the sick days for many uniformed employees.
Regarding the generally higher sick-leave usage in the uniformed agencies, “Some of the difference is attributable to the type of work done by uniformed staff and the greater likelihood of on-the-job injury,” wrote Mr. O’Brien. He noted that uniformed city employees are provided with unlimited sick time, which could also be a factor.
Cops’ Strong Work Ethic
According to the IBO’s report, 48 percent of Police Officers didn’t take any sick leave at all in fiscal 2016, while an additional 6 percent took sick leave only related to on-the-job injuries.
Among Firefighters, 31 percent took no sick leave in the last fiscal year. Another 26 percent only took leave related to line-of-duty injuries.
On the other hand, 93 percent of Correction Officers took some kind of sick leave, as did 92 percent of Sanitation Workers.
The report also showed that in all four uniformed agencies, the top 10 percent of employees taking leave accounted for at least half of their agency’s sick-time usage.
At the NYPD, the top 10 percent of employees taking time off accounted for 69 percent of the agency’s used sick time.
The Department of Correction was right behind, with 63 percent of the agency’s time being used by the most-frequently-absent.
Spread Around More
The FDNY and the Department of Sanitation had slightly-more-even distribution of sick leave, with the top 10 percent of personnel calling in sick accounting for 59 and 50 percent of the agency’s used leave, respectively.
Conversely, the top 10 percent of chronically-absent civilians accounted for only about 31 percent of civilian sick leave.
The report noted that uniformed personnel who are chronically absent from work are “subject to home visits to verify their condition and may also face the loss of certain discretionary benefits and privileges such as eligibility for assignment to special units or commands.”