Sick days slashed at Hartlepool council – but stress, depression and fatigue make up 21 per cent of absence

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COUNCIL bosses have praised staff for their efforts in light of savage budget cuts after it was revealed the number of days lost to sickness has been cut for the sixth successive year.

New Hartlepool Borough Council figures for 2012-13 reveal that overall the number of days sick per employee was 7.96, more than five days less than the high of 13.52 in 2006-07.

While the local authority missed its own target of 7.7 days for the last 12 months, it is still the sixth successive year the figure has been reduced.

Staff have been praised for their commitment for recording fewer days of sickness despite increasing pressures due to budget cuts, with the council looking to save a further £20m over the next four years.

Andrew Atkin, the council’s assistant chief executive, said: “While we did not reach the target, 7.96 is still an improvement on the year before and it is the sixth successive year we have had a reduction.

“As officers we are continuing to work to drive these figures down further.”

Mr Atkin said it is becoming increasingly more difficult to make large inroads into the figures because they have been cut so much in the last six years.

Staff off with stress, depression and fatigue accounted for 21 per cent of sickness absence and Labour councillor Chris Simmons called on managers to ensure they thank staff for their efforts.

Coun Simmons said: “It makes a big difference about how you feel about coming into work, the feel good factor you get from a manager saying well done.”

Mr Atkin said there is a general culture of support for staff at the local authority.

Dave Stubbs, the council’s chief executive, said: “It is testament to the staff, at a time of huge government cuts and welfare reform, to see that sickness levels are actually falling.”

Labour councillor Ged Hall said the graphs showed “impressive and significant reductions”.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “We need to strive for continuous improvement against a backdrop of very challenging times.”

The target for 2013-14 is 7.5 days per employee.

Officers say early intervention is key and they encourage employees to take part in health initiatives.

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