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Human Resources Minister Troy Lifford said the reduction in civil service sick days roughly represents one quarter of a day per employee. (CBC)

New Brunswick civil servants took 2,300 fewer sick days in the first three months of 2013 compared to the same period last year, according to the provincial government.

Human Resources Minister Troy Lifford says that's the equivalent of one quarter of a day per employee in part one of the civil service, which covers primarily departmental civil servants.

Lifford says the figures show the Alward government's effort to reduce the number of sick days in the civil service is starting to get results.

"We believe this decrease is a result of departmental efforts to educate employees that sick leave is an insurance program for those times when they are unable to report to work," he said.

"In addition, some departments are implementing strategies to support wellness and work-life balance."

Lifford was unable to provide the total number of sick days or say what percentage the reduction represents.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs has previously questioned whether all the sick days claimed were for real illnesses.

In April, he introduced an attendance management program, which he said would ensure sick leave is used only when absolutely necessary, would protect sick leave benefits for government workers and save taxpayers money.

Higgs said he hopes to achieve a 20-per-cent reduction in sick leave usage by March 31, 2015, which would result in annual savings of approximately $20 million.

Susie Proulx-Daigle, president of the New Brunswick Union of Public and Private Employees, had rejected the notion civil servants were abusing sick leave.

She said if the number of sick days were increasing, it could be because departments are understaffed or underfunded.