Nearly 200 council staff on long-term sick leave

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STRESS and ‘anxiety’ topped the list of reasons why almost 200 Sheffield Council staff went on long-term sick leave last year, The Star can reveal.

Some 188 individuals needed at least six weeks’ leave for a range of condition - while the total number of days lost in 2010/11 was 11,321.

Top reason for time off sick was anxiety, stress or depression, accounting for 4,167 days off. Musculoskeletal issues accounted for 2,856 days, and cancer led to 805 days’ leave.

Each of the council’s 12,000 staff claimed on average 8.5 days off sick in 2010/11 - down from 9.05 days two years ago.

The figures are revealed as part of The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign aims to expose the hidden facts which affect readers’ everyday lives.

Jon Mordecai, regional officer for trade union Unison, predicted managing staff sickness could be an even bigger challenge for the council in years to come, due to pressure caused by budget cuts.

“There are now staff working in smaller teams dealing with higher workloads, and most staff are fearful for their jobs, which is clearly a situation in which there will be added stress,” he said.

Council deputy leader Coun Bryan Lodge said new measures - such as identifying and tackling back pain, and encouraging staff to sign up to healthy eating and quitting-smoking schemes - had been introduced to bring rates down. “We’re confident this work will continue to bring sickness absence rates down even further going forward.”