Rising levels of stress blamed for increase in Staffordshire Police sick days
RISING stress levels blamed on job cuts and forced retirements at Staffordshire Police have led to more than 7,000 days lost to the illness in a year.
Figures released today show officers took 3,141 sick days for 'psychological disorders' like stress and depression in 2011/12, while civilian staff took 3,937.
It means the total amount of sick days lost to stress increased from 6,865 to 7,707 a year earlier – despite the force employing hundreds fewer officers and staff.
Stress has become the second biggest cause of sickness at the force behind muscular and skeletal injuries, which includes broken bones, pulled muscles and back complaints, and claimed 11,049 days last year.
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Staffordshire Police Federation had always warned stress levels would rise with budget cuts and forced retirements through the A19 regulation.
Officer numbers have fallen from 2,089 last year to 1,919 this month. Police staff numbers have dropped from 1,462 to 1,179 over the same period.
Chairman Andy Adams said: "There is a lot more pressure now.
"There are less people out on the street doing the job but the same high standards are expected.
"It comes as no surprise that people are feeling anxious and vulnerable about going to work and it could get worse.
"People are concerned about their roles and their job."
Figures show the force lost 35,517 days to sickness absence in 2011/12, compared with 37,770 in 2010/11. The average officer took more than 9.5 days off due to illness in 2011/12 – up from 8.5 days in 2010/11.
The county's 209 police community support officers (PCSOs) took an average of almost 11 days off sick each, up from 9.8 days. Police staff took an average of 9.2 days.
Staffordshire Police Authority has demanded the breakdown of sickness figures ahead of a meeting on Monday.
Staffordshire Police are missing their target of an average of 8.5 sick days – which is already above the 6.8 days private-sector average.
Frank Chapman, a former police officer who now serves on the police authority's HR committee, said: "There are a lot of pressures in society with the economic situation and I would imagine the police force is not alone in experiencing an increase in stress levels.
"We have to bring the sickness levels down, in the interests of the individual as much as anything else."
Almost 200 Staffordshire bobbies are currently classed as having some level of restriction to their duties. Fifty-six of them are on a recuperative programme ahead of them returning to full operational duty.
A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: "The duties of police officers are often particularly onerous and can, at times, be dangerous.
"For these and other reasons individuals may, from time to time, be absent from duty because of illness.
"We continue to try to reduce our sickness rates for officers and police staff.
"Briefings have taken place across the force recently to remind managers about the importance of early intervention to deal with attendance issues."