Stress top cause of Stoke-on-Trent City Council staff being off sick
MORE council staff are taking time off work with anxiety and stress than for any other reason, a new report reveals.
For workers at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, stress is now a more common reason for absence than ailments such as back problems and stomach complaints.
A report to the human resources committee shows anxiety, stress and 'nervous debility' is the most likely reason for absence in five out of six departments.
The department affected most seriously is business services, where 50.89 per cent of staff who took time off in August gave stress or anxiety as the reason.
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A similar pattern is seen for schools staff, where 26.30 per cent of absent staff gave the same reason that month, and for employees within the 'children and young people' department where the figure is 26.74 per cent.
For staff in 'city renewal' the figure is 11.17 per cent, while in 'adults and neighbourhoods' it is 25.03 per cent. Only the chief executive's office bucked the trend – the most common reason for time off was joint or muscular problems.
Between June and August, more than 400 sick days were taken due to stress and anxiety, compared to less than 100 for stomach-related problems.
Councillors suggested the high levels of stress can be blamed on redundancy levels.
The report shows a dramatic fall in staff numbers employed in some departments.
In children and young people's services, for example, about 400 people were made redundant or moved to other departments in the last year.
The report states: "The numbers of employees changed during the restructuring and redundancy exercises over 12 months. As part of the budget development a lot of fixed term and casual contracts came to an end.
"There were also considerable changes to permanent and temporary posts."
Councillors raised concerns regarding the report when they met yesterday at the Civic Centre in Stoke.
Martin Garner, chairman of the human resources committee, said: "What has worried me particularly is the levels of anxiety, stress and nervous debility, at a time when we now have significantly fewer people doing the same workload."
Dawn Hewins, the council's assistant director for human resources and transformation, said many of these cases could be due to family bereavement, which does not have a separate category of its own.
Mrs Hewins said the council has a policy of giving compassionate leave, and said employees work closely with occupational health workers.
She added: "If it happens suddenly it can be quite a shock, so we have a policy in place."
Randy Conteh, independent councillor for Penkhull and Stoke, said the council should be as supportive as possible.
The other main reasons for absence were back and stomach problems, and people recovering from operations.