Gardaí lost more than 227,000 days last year to sickness not including Covid-19 related absences which were recorded as special leave.

Figures released by An Garda Síochána reveal that there were around 518 sick days taken by gardaí on an average day last year.

There was also almost 104 civilian staff sick days on an average day in 2020, from the force’s support staff.

The figures show that gardaí lost 227,163 days to illness last year, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Of that, 189,248 involved gardaí, with 172,521 sick days taken among officers with a garda rank.

A further 15,165 sick days were taken by garda sergeants, and 851 days by inspectors.

Superintendents took a combined 590 sick days, chief superintendents took 67, and assistant commissioners accounted for 53 days.

Gardaí said another 37,915 days were lost to ill-health among staff members with the vast majority of that – 28,107 days – among clerical officers.

A garda spokesman said injury on duty accounted for approximately 30% of the sickness absence figure for officers.

He said: “Sick absence for members is recorded as the number of calendar days that a member is absent and may include weekend and/or rest days.

“In order to estimate the working days lost, the number of sick leave days recorded are adjusted by a factor of 5/7.” 

The spokesman said the figures reflected an absence rate of around 3.6% of all 14,491 garda members and 3% of all 3,353 garda staff.

He added: “Comparing December 2020 to December 2019, year on year ordinary illness days have significantly decreased for garda members by 25.3% and also notably decreased for garda staff by 12.6%.

“However, injury on duty sick absence shows a slight increase month on month. Comparing December 2020 to December 2019, year on year injury on duty had increased marginally by 3.6%.” 

The figures do not however, give a full picture of illness within the force last year as Covid-related absences have been recorded separately.

Gardaí said that in line with other public bodies, they were recording Covid-19 absences as “special leave” and not as sick leave.

They said: “However, there are several circumstances under which special leave with pay can be granted and the Garda Employee Management System does not differentiate between those reasons.” 

Gardaí said it was not therefore possible to provide specific Covid-19 data without manually trawling through every instance of “special leave”.

They said gardaí had maintained “significantly high rates of availability” throughout the pandemic despite the increased risk of exposure many are facing while on duty.