Pressure sees sickness rise

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‘Enormous pressure’ due to the impact of cuts is taking its toll on Sheffield Council staff as sickness absence rates have risen.

Figures released to The Star under the Your Right to Know campaign show that, while workers each took 11.77 days off sick on average in 2011/12, the figure rose to 12.36 in 2012/13.

The rate was much higher than neighbouring Rotherham, where average days lost to sickness fell from 7.96 in 2011 to 7.51 days in 2012.

Rod Padley, officer for trade union Unison at Sheffield Council, said: “The reason staff sickness rates are high in Sheffield and have increased over the last year is simply down to morale.

“There is enormous pressure on our members due to continuing Government cuts.

“Rotherham is a smaller council and has not had the same redundancies.

“For example, in terms of personal assistants, there used to be one for each senior officer, whereas now one PA will cover five or six directors.

“There are more senior managers than those carrying out the work, more redundancies to come and staff have not had a pay rise for four years.

“The council is not a pleasant place to work at the moment.”

Figures for both councils are in average days off per single member of ‘full-time-equivalent’ staff, rather than divided by the actual headcount, to take part time workers into account.

Sheffield Council said it has ‘developed a strategy’ for managing staff absence.

A spokesman said: “The council has recognised this as an issue. We have analysed the reasons for the increase and developed a strategy for addressing the issue.

“This deals with all aspects of managing attendance, so we can identify trends and target activity in areas with problems.”

The council said its plan includes ‘interventions at early stages of absence’ to support employees back to work as quickly as possible, and ‘intensive case management of long-term absence cases with individual strategies’.

The spokesman said: “We also plan to look at service and job design in any reorganisation activity and a wider approach to the health and wellbeing of staff.

“We have piloted some of these approaches – particularly around management of long-term absences – and sickness absence has reduced in the fourth quarter of 2012/13 compared with quarter three and compared with the same period the previous year.”

A Rotherham Council spokesman said support was offered to staff with long-term sickness, with the ‘implementation of a range of policies’ to help affected workers.

n Raising issues – See Page 13.