Sickness levels down at council

COUNCIL staff have been praised after the number of sick days per employee dropped again.

Independent councillor Paul Thompson said it was pleasing to see the number of days staff were taking off sick a year has been slashed from a high of more than 13 days six years ago, to less than seven now.

Coun Thompson, portfolio holder for finance and corporate services, met recently to hear the latest employee attendance figures for the second quarter of 2012-13.

The report highlighted that the actual sickness rate at the end of that period was 7.30 days per employee, under the target of 7.70.

Coun Thompson said he was particularly pleased to note the progress made because the average absence had dropped from an average of 13.5 days per employee to less than 7.5 over the past six years.

Coun Thompson said: “I am pleased to see there is a continued reduction because at one point it was as high as 13.5 days per employee.

“I am quite surprised that we have managed a further reduction, especially taking into consideration that people are anxious about their jobs.

“There is less staff now and that brings additional work load and pressures, which can all take its toll.

“But we have good staff who have taken it on the chin and the attendance levels have not been negatively affected.”

A report to the meeting said: “The figure identifies that there is an overall downward trend in sickness absence rates across all departments and schools compared with the last three years.

“It shows, at this stage in the year, the council are just under the challenging target set for this year but expect, through robust sickness absence management over the remaining months, will meet its overall sickness absence target for the year.”

Council officials say they are committed to seeing the figures continue to reduce.

Officers say there is an ongoing development of the council’s commitment to managing stress at work as part of a wider mental health strategy and a continuous review of the sickness absence policy.

There is also 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.

Andrew Atkin, the council’s assistant chief executive, said that each departmental management team regularly analysed the break down of sickness absences to ensure they were “actively managed” in the most appropriate manner.