Workers Clock Up 300 Years On Sick – Social Workers The Worst

STAFF at Neath Port Talbot Council have clocked up around three centuries worth of time off sick in just one year. Between them, the authority’s employees racked up an estimated 106,200 days off in 2007/08.

The council confirmed each worker had taken an average of 11.8 sick days off — far higher than the figure for private-sector workers, which is just under six days. The UK public-sector average is nine days.

Things appear to be improving, however, with an average of 11 sick days per employee recorded for the first six months of 2008/09.

Nonetheless, Neath Port Talbot Independent Party leader Andrew Tutton has called for an investigation into the matter.

“It’s quite disgusting,” he said.

“This would never happen in the private sector.

“Questions need to be asked and an investigation should be launched straight away because it’s costing taxpayers money.”

Mark Wallace, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance campaign group, revealed the figures were among some of the highest he had come across.

“There’s clearly a serious problem in the way these staff are being managed,” he claimed.

“Either the centralised, red tapedriven structure is making people ill or it’s far too easy for staff to pull ‘sickies’. Either way, taxpayers are losing out and getting a poor deal.”

But authority bosses hit back, pointing out the council’s record had improved and now compared favourably with many others in Wales. It had been the worst performing in terms of sick days back in 2003/04.

Personnel boss Graham Jones said: “The number of days lost per employee at Neath Port Talbot is now at a level which is average for Welsh local authorities.

“This is a major achievement because many of the council’s employees live within Neath Port Talbot which, as a community, has ill-health levels which are significantly above average for Wales and, indeed, the UK.”

Stress, mental health problems and depression accounted for one fifth of absences from the council, which employs an estimated 9,000 people. The council was yesterday unable to say how many staff it did employ.

Back problems, joint injuries and repetitive strains made up 14 per cent of reasons given for time off.

Workers in the social services department called in sick most often, missing an average of about 16 days each — down from nearer 20 in 2003/04.

“Many employees within the council have caring responsibilities and much of the absence relating to stress, for example, is the symptom of lots of people struggling to cope with the pressures of modern life, including caring for family, friends and neighbours,” said Mr Jones.

He added: “The council’s flexible working practices are intended to assist our employees to ensure that excellent services are provided while at the same time enabling the council to be a good employer.”