WORKERS at a Yorkshire council took more than a fortnight off sick in the past year, on average.
Staff at Doncaster Council took an average 14.56 days per person, more than three times the national average, with Hull closely behind at 12.71.
In comparison, Humberside Police officers took 6.8 days off in the period from last April to March, and those at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, 6.24 days. Staff at Sheffield Council took 8.61 and Barnsley 7.64. Leeds notched up 9.3 days - its lowest result ever.
Doncaster Council is currently changing terms and conditions for many staff, cutting pay and benefits, a move unpopular with the unions.
Community group councillor Martin Williams blames uncertainty for high absence rates: “I just think staff have been so hammered - they are punch drunk and waiting to see who is next for the bullet.”
But chief executive Jo Miller said the figures were “unacceptably high” and had been for years, adding: “When staff are genuinely ill we need to support them and help them from becoming ill in the first place where we can. However, sickness levels at this extraordinary level means we have to crack down. Not least for those staff who have to pick up others’ work due to sickness meaning there is added pressure on them, so it becomes a vicious circle and ultimately it is our customers who suffer because of this.”
Hull’s figures, which came after 1,000 redundancies, were a slight improvement. But deputy council leader Daren Hale said there was a “considerable” way to go: “It is particularly short-term absenteeism, the Friday to Monday syndrome, that we really want to impact on. You are always going to get people who are genuinely ill, but we are expecting our managers to manage it more robustly.”
According to national statistics an average 4.5 days were lost per person due to sickness.
Adrian Kennett, Unison branch secretary at Hull Council, said: “Mental well-being is a massive factor, people are feeling extremely worried for their futures, resilience falls and people become more susceptible to illness.”