Sickness levels are down again

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COUNCIL sickness levels have fallen for the fourth year in a row – but they remain the highest in the region.

The average number of sick days taken by the 4,500-strong Hartlepool Borough Council work force was 9.11 days last year.

That was better than the council target of 9.30 days but Redcar, Stockton, Middlesbrough and Darlington councils all had lower sickness levels.

In 2006-07, the figure reached a high of more than 13 days in Hartlepool so there has been a steady decline over the past four years.

The national average for last year was 9.2 days so the council is marginally lower, but officers say they are committed to reducing it further.Latest figures by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development show the average number of sick days in the private sector is around 7.

Council chiefs in Hartlepool say they do not have a breakdown for the causes behind the sickness levels but officers say there is no reason to suggest they are different from national averages.

National averages show that the biggest single cause of absence is stress, depression, anxiety, mental health and fatigue.

The other major causes are musculo-skeletal problems, back and neck and kidney, stomach and liver problems.

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash, portfolio holder for performance, is set to meet this week to discuss the latest figures.

A report to the meeting said: “This shows a continued reduction in levels of sickness absence rates for the fourth year running.

“The council continues to focus on sickness absence management to drive these figures down further.”

In 2006-07 the sickness absence figure reached a high of 13.52 days.

That dropped to 10.57 the following year, in 2008-09 it was 9.93 days and in 2009-10 it was 9.33 days per employee.

The report added: “The figure identifies that there is a continued overall downward trend in sickness absence rates across the council, as compared with the last two years.

“However, as the overall sickness absence drops then the rate of expected decline reduces also, therefore the rate of decrease has slowed down.”

The council has set an overall target of 8.9 sickness days next year.

The report added: “The target set for 20011-12 is based upon individual targets set by departments and for schools.”

Officers say they will continue to run wellbeing sessions, weight management groups, non-smoking groups and health checks.

They say they have a commitment to manage stress levels of employees and will continue to work closely with trade unions to manage sickness levels.

Sickness absence figures for 2010-11 show that Redcar had an average of 7.48 days, Darlington 7.71, Stockton 8.21 and Middlesbrough 8.46.

The portfolio meeting is due to take place on Wednesday, July 13, at 3pm in Committee Room C, at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road.

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