Career employees earn 4 hours of sick leave for a full pay period (80 hours), or at a rate of 5 percent. Some career employees are currently taking sick leave at approximately the same rate, liquidating their leave bank. The Postal Service’s sick leave absence rate (absenteeism) was 4.3 percent in 2008. This seems high compared to the 1.1 percent rate the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports for employees in the private sector and 1.7 percent rate for employees in the federal sector. So why was the Postal Service’s rate higher? A 2007 private sector survey by CCH Incorporated indicates two thirds (66 percent) of U.S. workers who take unscheduled sick leave do so for reasons other than physical illness, such as personal and/or family issues, stress, or entitlement. Is the Postal Service’s sick leave rate higher because employees call in sick for reasons other than physical illness?

The Postal Service cannot ignore the $1.4 billion spent on sick leave last year and recognizes that the best person to do the job is the person hired for it rather than a replacement. The Postal Service identified approximately 35,000 employees in 2008 with 20 or more unscheduled absences. That means 5 percent of its employees have nearly one absence for every paycheck! What is the impact on morale to the other 640,026 career employees? Is there something the Postal Service can do to reduce the number of unscheduled absences? We’d like to know how you feel about these issues.

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This blog topic is hosted by OIG Human Capital.

Comments (156)

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  • anon

    The demographics and type of work may be responsible. Look at the median age of USPS employees. Plus, letter carrier and other USPS work is more physical than most fed jobs.

    Apr 27, 2009
  • anon

    Regardless of what the postal service says about mail volume being down. They are piling more and more mail on their employees. This can not be done without there being more repetive injuries to the employees.

    Apr 27, 2009
  • anon

    Sick leave use/abuse is not a new topic. It has been a constant source of discussion, but never resolved. Granted FERS and the disincentive to save SL is a problem. Also, Managment just gets used to people calling-in sick with the real or imagined illness and charge it off as a cost of doing business. If fact, as volume declines, people not coming to work may be of benefit. Supervisors and managers at the field level don't see the specific cost of SL usage. It is lost deep in the financial reports, so $$$ awareness is an issue. Those supv/mgrs who have been around awhile know the drill...crack down on month OT...the next month LWOP...and, oh yea, service. They know discipline for SL gets settled downstream (so why bother) and Labor Relations has gotten out of the discipline control business. So, what's the solution? There needs to be an incentive for employees not using SL. Whether it is an annual buy out at a reduced price offset by some form of long-term disability coverage or combine AL/SL into a merged personal leave (but the later would have to "booked" in the financal reports like AL is booked now). (SL is not booked, as it is not a liability). (Side note here, when making the comparisons with private industry, remember, they either don't normally have a separate SL program or the earning rate for SL is not even close to the 104 hours per year). We have learned throughout the years that cracking down on SL using the stick doesn't work in the long run. Under CSRS, we were able to slow the rate as employees had an incentive to save. Today, a similar incentive has to be developed that has a cost benefit as it looks like employees are approaching a national ratio of 5.2% which is using SL as it is earned (104 hours/2000 hours). Good luck with this one. Many have tried to solve it and no one has been successful

    Apr 27, 2009
  • anon

    Well stated: The best way to decrease the use of sick leave (FERS FLU) is to provide some kind of tangible benefit to it. I have submitted the following as an EIdea several times. Set a base number of hours. Say that base is 1000 hours. To build up to this base you will need about 10 years of good attendance/health. Each year the postal service buys back every hour over the base at 50 cents on the dollar. This is determined at the last pay-period of November. The first pay-period of December a separate check is cut and sent to the office of employment. As an example, say an employee is earning $25.00 per hour and has 1100 hours at the last pay-period in November. The 100 hours over base would be paid at 50 cents on the dollar. In dollar terms, that employee has earned a check of $1,250.00. This would be a good annual reminder that good health and attendance is valuable both tangibly as well as intangibly. Then at a standup management is required to give these checks out as a Christmas/holiday bonus. This would be an annual reminder, in a tangible way, that there is value to being healthy and having good attendance. This will be an annual reminder that good health and attendance is valuable, now and should you need to be cover for a serious accident or health event. The 1000 hours equates to about six months of time off should it be needed.

    May 01, 2009
  • anon


    May 20, 2009
  • anon

    How is extended sick leave for off-duty injuries/illness, such as a broken leg or a major surgery, factored into the private sector to postal sector analysis? Most private sector organization provide short-term disability coverage for employee's off-duty injuries/illnesses. Without input about short-term disability absences in the private sector, the comparison is moot. Or, provide a breakdown of postal sick leave usage of 40-consecutive hours or less versus more than 40-consecutive hours.

    Apr 27, 2009


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