‘Staff too frightened to take days off sick’

Blackpool Town Hall flag flying at half mast after the death of former CEO Steve Weaver.'30th May 2014

Blackpool Town Hall flag flying at half mast after the death of former CEO Steve Weaver.'30th May 2014

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Council workers in Blackpool take an average of 10 sick days a year, new figures revealed today.

The rate, for the financial year 2013/14 is slightly lower than the previous year but higher than two years ago.

Union leaders today warned council cuts are having an impact with some people being put under increasing pressure due to staff shortages. Others are said to be reluctant to take days off when they are ill for fear of losing their jobs.

Julia Orry, branch secretary for Unison at Blackpool Council, said: “Employees are fearful of taking sick leave when really they are not fit enough to be in the workplace.

“Staff are suffering stress at work due to additional workloads because of the cuts in funding by Central Government and some are frightened to go off sick due to the fear of losing their jobs.

“This is because we are facing redundancies within the council and sickness can be part of the selection process.

“Because employees are not taking sickness when they should be, mistakes are being made, which may lead to 
disciplinary action.”

This year 300 jobs are set to be lost as part of savings of £25m. Since 2010, the council has had to slash £68m from its budget, and 759 workers have lost their jobs, bringing the total workforce to 2,463.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “Despite the huge numbers of staff we have lost over the last few years, the average number of days off due to sickness per staff member remains consistent, in fact, it has decreased slightly.

“That’s a tremendous credit to the commitment staff members are showing despite the stress caused by the hugely uncertain times they face and the pressure they are under to deliver more for less.

“We don’t rest on our laurels though and we would naturally prefer that we lost much less time due to sickness so our occupational health team continue to provide help and support to employees managers through everything from healthy lifestyle programmes to a dedicated employee assistance programme.”

In 2005/6 just over 11 days were lost to sickness on average per member of staff. The rate dropped over the ensuing years to just under nine days in 2011/12 before rising two years ago to nearly 10-and-a-half.