§ Mr. Webb
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress he has made on reducing his Department's sickness absence rate; what baseline figure was used to assess his Department's compliance with its Public Service Agreement target on reducing sickness rates; what the rate was in each of the last seven years; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Maria Eagle
The Department for Work and Pensions has a Service Delivery Agreement for reducing sickness absence. This is nine days over the year to December 2004 and 8.5 days over the year to December 2005, as interim targets towards the key indicator of eight days to 2006. The Department is committed to increasing its level of attendance to meet this challenge.
To secure improvements the Department has launched a managing attendance strategy that combines a policy drawn from recognised best practice, with initiatives targeting specific areas. The initiatives include the following:a scrutiny of long-term absence cases to draw out any lessons that can be learned from these cases and for the necessary action to be followed through;412Wpilots in five Jobcentre Plus districts focusing on early intervention by Occupational Health nurses to help avoid absences becoming long term;Well Being at Work pilots which aim to contribute to the well being of the organisation by identifying and tackling stress (as part of a wider Health and Safety Executive pilot);an evaluation of the Attendance Management policy. This will complement the National Audit Office study that is currently taking place of the Department's Attendance Management policy.
The information requested on the Department's sickness absence rate is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is in the table.
Sickness absence information for DWP and the former DSS Department Year Average number of working days lost DSS 1999–2000 12.0 DSS 2000–01 12.3 DSS 2001–02 11.2 DWP 2002–03 12.3
- 1. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was created in June 2001. Due to the migration of businesses into and out of the newly forming Department,and differences in calculation methods, figures for the Department as a whole are only available from April 2002.
- 2. The information in Table 1 covers the years April 1999 to March 2002 relating to the former Department of Social Security (DSS), the main predecessor Department in place prior to the formation of DWP, and for DWP for April 2002 to March 2003.
- 3. Figures have been provided for DSS and DWP for each full operational year since 1999. Sickness absence information for the current year, April 2003 to March 2004, will be available in spring 2004.