By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The city of Hamilton is using data tactics, which was popularized in the book and film “Moneyball,” to solve its rising employee absenteeism problem that cost the municipality about $12 million last year.
Using new computer software technology called business intelligent solutions, city staff found that 20 per cent of staff, or about 1,000 employees, used about 80 per cent of Hamilton’s sick time. About 27 per cent of employees don’t take sick days, while the majority of employees who did take sick time averaged about 3.38 days, at a cost to the city of about $3.4 million.
The total short-term disability, defined as less than 130 days, that employees used last year cost the city $12 million. That is a jump from $9.9 million recorded in 2009.
But an estimated 72 employees, about 17 per cent of the people who use sick time, abuse the absenteeism system, the research found. They take on average about 40 days, at a cost of $5.8 million, said Zachary Nichols, the city’s information delivery analyst who provided the data to politicians at their May 21 general issues committee meeting.
“This changes the game completely,” said Nichols, adding staff can dive deeper to find out who is abusing the policy.
But while politicians praised the new information, some felt it isn’t enough. The city needs to get tougher with the people who are exploiting the city’s limited policy, they said.
“I really believe there is abuse,” said Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla.
Merulla said the absenteeism abuse involves employees taking Fridays and Monday’s off in order to have a four-day weekend.
“We know what the problem is. We need a plan of action,” said Merulla, who urged Nichols, who worked at Dofasco before being hired at the city, to confirm his suspicions with further analytical research.
Despite the new information, Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins said the problem employees will find a way to avoid working.
“It’s the 72 (people) we need to follow,” said Collins. “People will find a way to beat the system.”
City Manager Chris Murray assured politicians staff are concerned about rooting out those people who are abusing the policy. He said managers are identifying the worst abusers, pulling them aside and explaining the process and consequences to them.
“We have a tool to go after them,” saidMurray.
Over the last four years politicians have been battling staff to get a handle on Hamilton’s absenteeism problem. Last year the number of sick days taken by employees jumped to 2.77 days from 2.55 days in 2012.
One area politicians want to crack down is how the city administers its doctor note policy. Currently, the city’s policy is an employee needs to show a doctor’s note after five days off. Last year, it was revealed that 27 managers asked for a doctor’s note from absent employees. Helen Tomasik, executive director of human resources, said managers are being trained on how to deal with absentee employees.
Politicians approved a motion, introduced by Merulla, asking staff to review a proposal that employees need a doctor’s note after being off for three consecutive days.
Politicians will vote on the recommendation at their May 28 council meeting.