Workers at the DVA test centre in Armagh racked up an average of 23 sick days – almost five working weeks – per employee over the course of a 12 month period up until September of this year.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) detailed a total of 461 sick days were lost at the centre between September 1, 2021 and August 31, 2022.
There are 20 employees based at the centre in Armagh – the lowest number of 15 centres across Northern Ireland.
Only two centres fared worse in relation to average days lost per employee – Omagh with a total of 730 sick days across its 28 employees; an average of 26 sick days and Downpatrick with a staggering 927 sick days across its 25 employees, meaning, on average, each employee had 37 sick days – almost eight working weeks.
Newry fared only marginally better than Armagh, coming fourth on the list. Its 30 employees accrued 651 sick days, an average of 21.7 days. Craigavon averaged 11.7 sick days per its 34-strong workforce
In contrast Larne – the best of the 15 centres – tallied 8.8 days per employee. Belfast (9.7) and Coleraine (9.4) both kept their numbers in single figures.
Craigavon, averaged 11.7 days for its 34-strong workforce.
Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin said the numbers of days lost to sickness, which were close to 7,000 in one year – the equivalent of 19 years – was a “concern”.
He said that whilst undoubtedly Covid-19 has likely played a part in the statistics, he felt the situation was a worrying trend which has contributed to the current MOT delays crisis affecting thousands of motorists across the Province.
“For 6,994 sick days to be accumulated by a staff base of only 490 from September 1, 2021 to August 31, 2022, is a staggering statistic and it certainly points to part of the reason why motorists have faced such a crisis in trying to get a date for their MOT or a driving test,” said Mr Irwin.
“If this happened in the private sector, the business would have gone bankrupt. Leave of this scale is a recipe for bankruptcy.
“With such a high figure, I have written to the DVA Chief Executive and urged him to think again when it comes to managing the workforce. There is evidently an underlying problem which must be addressed. The efficiency and output must be heavily curtailed simply due such a high sick leave rate.
“When you consider the individual sites and the sick leave attributed to each site, Downpatrick stands out with close to 1,000 days sick in a staff base of only 25 people. The Larne centre had the lowest rate at 220 days sick with a staff count of 25. This is a huge variation and whilst obviously sickness can be for many reasons, surely some investigation is required by management into these concerning figures.
“The entire Driver and Vehicle testing system is backlogged and under strain. It is particularly frustrating for motorists who have waited many weeks for an MOT and in the interim have been unable to tax their vehicle and have incurred fines.
“There must be an urgent review of these statistics and I trust that the Chief Executive will work to improve the service for thousands of motorists in Northern Ireland.”
See the list of sick days per centre across Northern Ireland:
Overall total 6,994
Number of employees at each centre:
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Armagh 20
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Ballymena 36
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Belfast 47
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Coleraine 33
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Cookstown 32
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Craigavon 34
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Downpatrick 25
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Enniskillen 34
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Larne 25
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Lisburn 32
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Londonderry 36
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Mallusk 34
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Newry 30
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Newtownards 44
DfI, DVA, Test Centre, Omagh 28