Council staff sickness rates rise again – despite plan to tackle absences

Photograph: Anthony Devlin / PA Wire

Staff sickness rates at City of York Council have risen even further – after it was revealed that 23,000 working days were lost to absence last year.

Councillors vowed to act on the high level of sickness in October 2018 after hearing that the average number of sick days taken at the council each year was 11.5. The average number of annual sick days in the public sector is 8.5.

But the number of days lost to absence has continued to rise – and the latest figures show on average staff had 12.3 sick days a year.

Andrea Dudding, secretary for union Unison in York, said:

  • The council has not really go to grips with underlying causes, and I believe that if that is done, this could contribute to a fall in the rates.

    Staff need to feel supported, and managers following a process doesn’t always feel supportive.

Better reporting

Ms Dudding added that the rise could be down to better reporting of sickness absence and called for more information about whether the sick days are down to long-term absence, illness or disability.

She said: “Numbers are people too. Any one of us could become sick or disabled at any time.”

Last October senior councillors agreed to put £180,000 towards funding a dedicated team to reduce absences by a third by April 2021.

Trudy Forster, head of HR at the council, said the authority has appointed a new occupational health team and is in the middle of selecting a support team to work with staff.

She added:

  • We are committed to making sure that colleagues have the right support in place, which is shown in the wide range of proactive health and wellbeing measures we provide.

    Knowing that sick leave has increased, and understanding the inevitable pressures staff face, we know we need to be more proactive and offer additional support.

    It will also mean more people will return to work quicker which will reduce pressure on their colleagues.

    This is why we are investing in industry expertise to quickly support staff and managers and better our practice which, in turn, will lead to improved health and wellbeing, alongside savings from reduced sickness absence.

She said this was why the council has appointed a new occupational health provider and are in the process of awarding the contract for dedicated support to individuals and managers.

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