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Suffolk County Council staff in sickness shocker

PUBLISHED: 09:35 13 May 2011

Endeavour House, Ipswich - headquarters of Suffolk County Council

Endeavour House, Ipswich - headquarters of Suffolk County Council

Archant

STAFF at Suffolk County Council are taking an average of nearly ten days off sick each year, it has been revealed.

The sickness rate at Endeavour House last year was 9.96 days per person – meaning more than 65,800 days were lost due to ill health.

The figures relate to non-school employees – but when you take into consideration the number of sickness days taken by teachers, assistants, school administration staff and caretakers the figure rises to a 139,507 days.

Despite facing a sickness bill (excluding schools) of more than £5million – the actual cost to the council was £5,191,972 – Suffolk County Council defended the figures.

A council spokesman said: “Our absence figures are in line with the local government average.

“We remain committed to supporting our staff and continue to develop ways to reduce the levels of absence and to improve health and well-being of our staff.

“Some of the methods we are using to reduce the levels of absence include a new occupational health contract, a pro-active approach to managing long term illness and an employee assistance programme, which includes a 24/7, 365 day per year helpline available to all staff.”

The figures, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information request, also put the council above the UK average of 6.5 days per person which was calculated by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Kathy Pollard, leader of the Ipswich Liberal Democrats, said: “It is not good enough to say that the council’s figures are in line with the local government average.

“I have argued for many years that there should be a human resources sub-committee which examines issues like this.

“Staff have clearly been under a great deal of strain under the proposals contained in the New Strategic Direction.

“All steps should now be taken to improve staff morale and examine the causes of sickness absence in detail, if they are to be improved.”

Charlotte Linacre, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, added: “Of course, genuine sickness needs understanding and employees on long term sick leave should be given help to get back to work where possible.

“But the number of sick days taken at Suffolk Council is above the national average, which suggests that there is an issue with absenteeism or engagement.

“It’s crucial while the budgets are being brought down that the culture at the councils is geared towards productivity so that money isn’t wasted and taxpayers aren’t getting a raw deal.”

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