Absence costs town hall £3.6m

Blackpool Town Hall and (below) chief executive Neil Jack.

Blackpool Town Hall and (below) chief executive Neil Jack.

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Stress has been blamed for an increase in sick leave among town hall workers.

Absence levels among staff at Blackpool Council went up to an annual average of 10.4 days per full-time worker between March 2012 and March 2013, compared to 8.7 days the previous year.

Chief executive of Blackpool Council, Neil Jack

Chief executive of Blackpool Council, Neil Jack

Stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 23 per cent of absences last year, up from 16 per cent in the previous 12 months.

Comparisons to earlier years show the level of absences has returned to previously high levels following an improvement in 2011.

The cost to the council of staff absence was £3.6m in 2012/13 compared to £4.5m in 2009/10.

The figures were revealed in a report to the council’s finance and audit committee.

Council chief executive Neil Jack told the meeting: “The level is in line with local government and other organisations, but unfortunately I think it is far too high.

“In some areas, it is less than five days and in others it is up to 20 days. The frontline tends to be worse than those who sit in an office. I think eight days is where we should be. The majority is legitimate but some of it won’t be.”

Mr Jack said more would be done to support staff and manage absence levels.

Councillors had called for the report amid fears council cuts had increased stress levels.

But the figures showed stress levels were nearly as high in 2009, at 22 per cent.

The council is holding an event on November 20 to showcase the support on offer.

Don’t make staff sickness any worse

The committee heard that long term absence for serious illness can skew the figures.

Coun Peter Hunter said: “I think we should take long term absence out of the equation where someone is seriously ill.

“By all means seek to make the workforce healthier, but in terms of managing sickness absence please don’t make the situation worse by giving people more reason to suffer stress as this can sometimes happen.”

Coun Val Haynes said: “I feel the figures are quite high.

“Because there is so much pressure on people, quite often they don’t get the opportunity to drink enough water. The more staff we lose, the more stress the remainder are going to be under.”

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