Stress and anxiety main reasons behind city council's £2.7m sick bill
STRESS and anxiety are the main reasons behind council workers calling in sick.
And figures from Stoke-on-Trent City Council have revealed staff absence is costing the cash-strapped authority £2.7 million per year.
The average time a council worker spends off work sick is currently 9.55 days. A report into absence has labelled the redundancies and restructuring process at the authority as contributory factors behind sickness levels.
The council has also warned that 'persistently absent' workers will be dismissed.
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Figures show the most stressed-out department is business services, with 50 per cent of absences in August being down to either stress, anxiety, or 'nervous debility'. That figure fell to 37 per cent in September.
Stress levels are also high in the adults and neighbourhood team with 29 per cent giving that reason in September.
A similar figure from September was seen in the chief executive's department with 24 per cent off through stress.
In the council-managed section of children and young people's services 25 per cent gave that reason for being off in September. However, that figure was halved for the schools section of the department. The authority says other reasons for absence are back and spinal problems, gastric disorders, joint and muscular problems, along with issues arising from surgery.
Officials say the direct costs incurred by the authority come from the expenditure of bringing in temporary staff or doling out overtime. But they warn the added workload could result in more stress for an individual's colleagues.
Charts compiled by the authority claim its departments have failed to meet its sickness target.
Councillor Olwen Hamer, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for transformation, said staff received free counselling and were able to use a 'Wellbeing Forum'.
"We are facing exceptional circumstances in the scale and depth of cuts imposed on us by government," she said.
"Our staff have worked incredibly hard in the face of this, and we are committed to supporting them as much as possible."
Councillor Dave Conway, leader of the opposition City Independents, said: "When you make people redundant you often do not make the work redundant with them.
"Fewer people are having to do more and that is leading to higher stress levels. "It's mad for them to think stress levels would not go up."
Elsewhere in the public sector, stress levels are high at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service. Latest figures revealed that firefighters missed 514 shifts with stress and anxiety between April and September.
Staffordshire County Council has reported stress and 'musculo-skeletal' injuries such as back pain as the main causes of staff absence. Last year workers took an average of eight days off sick.
The Staffordshire Police average increased from 8.5 days to 9.5 days between 2011/11 and 2011/12, while PCSOs are taking an average of 11 days.
The average time spent off sick in the private sector is 6.8 days.