COUNCILLORS have praised staff for their continued hard work and commitment after it was revealed sickness levels have fallen for the sixth year running.
While Hartlepool Borough Council failed to reach the target figure for 2013-14 the final figure for all local authority staff including school employees showed it had fallen again.
Over a 12-month period the figure has been slashed from 8.39 to 7.89 days per employee compared with a high of more than 13 days several years ago.
Senior councillors on the authority’s finance and policy committee welcomed the news and praised staff, despite falling just short of the target of 7.70 days absence per whole time equivalent employee.
Councillors said it was particularly pleasing given the ongoing multi-million pound savings and increased workloads that council staff are currently experiencing.
Andrew Atkin, the council’s assistant chief executive, presented the report to the finance and policy committee.
The report said: “The target figure for 2013-14 for the council is 7.70 wte days absence per wte employee (whole time equivalent).
“The end of year figure, although not meeting the target, still shows an improved figure of 7.89 days per wte per employee per annum.
“This shows a continued reduction in levels of sickness absence rates for the sixth year running and represents a reduction of 2.04 wte days per employee/annum since 2008-9.
“The council continues to focus on sickness absence management to drive these figures down further.”
Mr Atkin added: “It is testament to the staff and their hard work and commitment.”
The council leader, Christopher Akers-Belcher, added: “We all recognise that the staff are the cornerstone to our success.”
Labour councillor Chris Simmons said: “In light of the continued cuts our staff are going to be facing increasing pressures, we need to realise that when setting targets but also to congratulate the staff for their efforts.”
Next year’s target is 7.4 days.
Labour councillor Peter Jackson added: “We should recognise the strides forward that we have made in the past four to five years. We need to look after our employees.”
The report broke the details down further.
It added: “The figure identifies that there is a continued overall downward trend in sickness absence rates in schools and regeneration and neighbourhood’s.
“There has been an increase in rates in both chief executive’s and child and adult services due to the number of long term ill health cases in these departments during the 12 month period.
“However, overall the council has achieved an overall reduction in annual sickness rates.”
Council officials have previously said they are committed to seeing the figures continue to reduce.
That includes helping to manage stress at work as part of a wider mental health strategy and a continuous review of the sickness absence policy and a commitment to continue to promote flexible working measures, including home working and to maintain the close partnership with trade unions to work together to manage sickness absence.