COUNCIL staff are taking more than two weeks off sick a year – a rise of 18% in the past two years.

Ill employees took a total of 46,184 days off in 2013/14 – an average of more than 11 sick days a year each.

Union officials claim increasing demands on staff to deliver the same level of service with fewer people is to blame, as well as hot-desking spreading bugs.

The rising levels of sickness and stress were also noted by a party of senior officials from other local authorities who visited council offices last month. In response the city council is spending more money on occupational health so that staff can be seen more quickly.

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The average number of sick days was higher in some departments, with adult services staff taking 13.5 days off sick on average and employees in the environment, development and housing team needing 14 days each.
The council is now specifically tackling these front-line staff for extra support.
Union bosses said that figures for adult services would be slightly “disproportionate” as staff were instructed to take longer off if suffering from infectious conditions to avoid passing it on to residents.
Comparatively in 2011/12 staff took a total of 38,832 sick days – an average of less than eight days per employee. The figures do not include school staff.

In the Local Government Association peer review senior officials said a “more accurate recording of sickness” could account for some of the rise.

The report said there is “still a way to go in addressing sickness absence” and recommended an employee well-being programme is extended to reduce stress.
GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said the problem lay with the council for trying to operate the same level of service with fewer staff.

He said: “Stress levels will continue to go up if you think that another £25 million will be taken out of the budget next year. Stress levels have gone up since the Government started taking money away from councils.

“If you take two people out of team with sickness it’s a problem because there’s the same level of work coming in.”

Sue Moorman, the council’s head of human resources, said the high levels of sickness are a concern and recognised there was “still more to do”.

She said: “Our approach is to support staff, agreeing realistic targets and increasing the numbers getting regular one-to-ones with their managers.

“Both adult services and environment, development and housing employ large numbers of front-line staff delivering services directly to the residents of Brighton and Hove.

“These areas have been prioritised for support and since the launch of our initiatives levels of sickness are reducing.”