Absenteeism and sick leave in the public service have fallen significantly since sick leave entitlements were effectively halved last year, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The total cost of public service sick leave for 2014 was €319.3m, down €51.5m or almost 14% from the 2013 figure.

The average rate of public service sick leave has fallen from 4.3% in 2013 to 4%. The average public servant was out sick for 8.7 days in 2014, down from 9 and a half days in 2013.

According to the department, the reduction in sick leave meant that public servants worked an additional 260,000 days in 2014 compared to the previous year.

It notes that the new rules were only in place for nine months of the 2014 calendar year.

They apply to the civil service, health, local authority, justice and defence sectors, and were extended to the education sector last September.

However, they do not include the judiciary, members of the Defence Forces, or the staff of the Central Bank.

The new scheme introduced on 31 March last year cut the level of paid leave from six months on full pay and six months on half pay to three months on full pay and three months on half pay - though the old entitlements apply to critical illnesses.

Within the Civil Service, the average absenteeism rate was 10.1 days per employee.

The highest average absenteeism rates were in shared services (13.9 days), the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (13.2 days) and the Department of Social Protection (12.9 days).

The lowest rates of 1.6 days were in the Law Reform Commission and the Ombudsman for Children's Office.