Council fights sickness absence problem

SICKNESS absence at Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) is worse than any other local authority in Hertfordshire.

A report prepared for the council’s executive shows absenteeism cost the council a staggering �422,329 on agency staff to cover for staff with long term sickness and unplanned absence.

Figures reveal that every council employee took on average 12.20 days off sick every year leaving the council at the bottom of the sicky league.

North Herts District Council was only two places higher on 8.68.

SBC is now putting in place a sickness action plan to try and reduce absenteeism with the reporting saying “the underlying sickness absence rate remains unacceptably high at present and through continuing the operation of the action plan, the council will be able to reduce sickness absence levels further’.

Nearly a quarter of all staff sickness absence days are attributed to stress, anxiety or depression and since last September the council’s human resources training team has provided a range of interventions for managers and staff to help them deal with these matters.

SBC’s poor record at becoming bottom of the local authority sickness league in Herts was slammed by Lib Dem councillor Robin Parker who blamed poor management.

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“This problem is nothing new. I raised it years ago,” said Mr Parker.

“The situation is not getting better and to me it all boils down to bad management. To be fair, SBC are now saying they will begin to take action but why did they not do this years ago?

“Either Labour has let staff become complacent, or they are working their staff to an extent they become ill. Either way it is a waste of council taxpayers’ money.”

Sharon Taylor, leader of the council, said: “Sickness is at an unacceptably high level and we have put together an action plan to try and reduce these levels.

“This is causing a drain on the council’s budget which we can’t afford it. Once we get the levels of absenteeism for sickness down we will work hard to prevent them creeping back up again.”

Ms Taylor said the council has received full co-operation of all the unions at the council.