Essex Council sick leave higher than national average

Politics / Mon 19th May 2014 at 06:50am

ESSEX County Council workers are racking up more than 11 days of sick leave a year on average, it has been revealed.

Excluding teachers, employees at the authority are taking a full week more off compared to the national average.

But council leader councillor David Finch has told the Essex Chronicle that attendance records among his 7,740 workforce are perking up.

He said: “The health and wellbeing of our employees is extremely important to us at all times but especially in a period of major change in the way the council works and supports our communities.

“The council has made great strides with absence levels falling over the last five years, with the actual working time lost over the last two years below the public sector national average.

“However, there is still work to do and we are working closely with employees of all levels to reduce absence levels across the organisation.”

Sickness levels for the past financial year were 2.7 per cent, which was the average for local government but ahead of the council’s target of three per cent. They were 3.4 per cent in 2009/10. It is 1.8 per cent in the private sector in 2013.

Figures for staff from 2009 to 2013 show 491,050 days were lost to absences, averaging 98,210 per year or 11.5 per employee.

Of these, about a quarter were for a stress-related condition.

Roughly two in five workers at the authority take no sick time off each year.

But out of the 25,752 who have been absent over the past five years, they notch up on average 19 days off each. In the last year alone 4,051 workers of the 7,740 workforce have taken an average 20.4 days off each.

In 2009, the average county council worker took 12.3 days off sick, compared to 10.7 in 2013.

Last year in the UK, the average worker took 4.4 days sick leave.

The sickness statistics, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, also showed the non-teaching workforce dropped by nearly a fifth in five years, from 9,463 in 2009 to 7,740 in 2013.

Cllr Mike Mackrory, leader of the Liberal Democrats at County Hall, thought the high levels of sickness could have something to do with the authority slashing £364 million from its budget in the past three years and looking to find another £215 million this year and the next.

Cllr Mackrory, who is also vice chairman of the council’s corporate scrutiny committee, said: “We have two reports on this recently and the committee is quite concerned about the rates.

“The last ones submitted to us showed quite a significant gap between the public sector and the private sector. My view is we need to do a lot more work finding out why this is so different and if there are any underlying causes.

“My concern would be is the past two to three years this ‘wonderful’ transformation has brought about much higher stress rates.

“People don’t know what the future holds for them, they’re constantly having to apply for their jobs. “I know this goes on in the private sector but I imagine it has a lot to do with it.”

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