Revealed: Tube drivers take 1,000 days in sick leave per week

Shruti Tripathi Chopra
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For the first seven months of 2016, Tube drivers took over 34,000 sick days in total (Source: Getty)

Tube drivers took nearly 52,000 days off sick last year, the highest level in five years.

Figures obtained by City A.M. show that Tube drivers took almost 1,000 days in sick leave per week or 14 days per Tube driver in 2015, a year plagued with Tube strike threats due to disputes over working conditions and the Night Tube.

This compares with an average number of sick days for London workers of 3.5 days annually. UK-wide, the average is 4.5 sick days a year.

In July this year Tube drivers took 5,476 days off sick, the highest number of days taken in sick leave in any given month shown in the data set, which begins in January 2010.

For the first seven months of 2016, Tube drivers took over 34,000 sick days in total, the data shows. If this level of absence continues throughout this year, 2016 will end up seeing the highest rate of absenteeism on record.

Transport for London (TfL) employs approximately 3,700 Tube drivers who earn nearly £50,000 a year and get 43 days in annual leave.

Read more: Travel sickness: Tube staff took over 163,000 sick days last year

But senior London Tory Andrew Boff called for driverless trains to be introduced in the capital.

“Right now London is once again faced with the threat of strike action by drivers and these latest figures on sick leave do little to inspire commuters that things are likely to get better," the London Assembly member said.

“The Tube network must emulate sooner rather than later the success of the DLR and dramatically reduce the risk of disruption to passengers.”

"Driverless trains would significantly reduce the human contribution to delays and cancellations on our Tube network."

Days off sick taken by Tube drivers


2010 – 37,310


2011 – 38,487


2012 – 37,340


2013 – 45,069


2014 – 47,966


2015 – 51,890


2016 (until July) – 34,017


Keith Prince, transport spokesman for the London Assembly Conservatives, called on TfL to ensure that Tube drivers aren’t “skiving off work”.

“Clearly those who are genuinely ill need to be able to take sick leave where appropriate. However, this significant increase suggests that some tube drivers are taking London’s fare-payers for a ride.

“Londoners are entitled to expect TfL to take robust action to ensure that drivers paid upwards of £50k per year aren’t skiving off work.”

Meanwhile, Harry Davis, campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, expressed concerns about the taxpayers getting penalised from the increase in sickness levels.

"Sickness rates in the public sector are consistently higher than those in the private sector but even these numbers are high by comparison.

“But more worryingly is that the numbers in the last five years have risen at such a sharp rate. It's important that TFL bosses get a handle on this so that taxpayers and commuters do not end up paying twice - for cover and sick pay."

In a separate investigation in August, City A.M. found that ​Tube staff took over 163,000 sick days last year, the highest level in five years and more than twice the national average. The per employee absenteeism tally for the Tube staff works out at around 9.2 days a year.

A TfL spokesperson said: “Our 18,300 operational staff currently have an attendance rate of nearly 95 per cent. Any staff member on sick leave is treated with fairness and consistency and employees with poor levels of attendance are given an opportunity to improve.”

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