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Sick days cost taxpayer £7.6m
Staff sickness in the public sector is soaring, with councillors claiming it cost the tax-payer £7.6 million in a year.
Brighton and Hove City Council has revealed its workers are taking, on average, 11.3 days off a year – the equivalent of more than two weeks annually and an increase of 9% in the past 12 months.
This compares with national levels of 6.9 days a year in the public sector and 4.9 in the private sector.
With stress cited by officials as one of main reasons, union repre- sentatives said it was a sign of how departments across the local authority were having to do more with less.
In raising the issue during a town hall meeting, opposition councillors have now called for local authority managers to deal with the matter urgently.
Conservative group leader Coun Geoffrey Theobald said: “Clearly, if there are genuine reasons for staff sickness then it is right and proper that staff are allowed to take time off from work.
“However, when the council is so far above the national average for both public and private sectors, and heading in the wrong direction, then something seems to be going badly wrong man- agement-wise.
“And there is a major financial impact – if we were to get the level down just to the public sector average it would save council taxpayers around £3 million – money that could be spent on frontline services.”
But, Mark Turner, of GMB, said: “There are a lot of staff facing a lot of stress and pressure for various different reasons but the general thrust is that they are expected to do more with less. If you only have 50p you cannot spend £1.
“That added stress means that some people are expected to take their work home with them, which has added impact on social and family lives.”
He said there had been added stress put on workers due to Government changes, such as welfare reform and the planning system.
The figures were revealed in a report looking at the council’s performance for the first half of 2013/14.
A document to councillors said: “There appears to be no specific reason for the increase, although it is possible it may be attributable in part to the work the council has been doing to improve the reporting of sickness absence by managers.”
A recent report from the CBI indicates that staff absence, while falling, still costs the UK economy £14 billion a year.
Using an annual average salary of £25,798.60 across the council’s approxi- mately 9,500 staff, the Conservative group estimate staff absence in the current financial tier cost £7.6 million.
The council said it would be using the results of a recent staff survey to see if it has “appropriate mechanisms” in place to support those individuals who may be affected by stress.
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