Record number of sick days reported at city council

King's House
King's House

The average number of sick days taken by employees of Brighton and Hove City Council has hit a new record.

The average number of sick days taken by employees of Brighton and Hove City Council has hit a new record, the Brighton and Hove Independent can reveal.

Within less than three years, it has leapt by almost half (49%) - to nearly three weeks a year.

Latest data shows that, on average, 13.2 days off sick were taken last year by each full-time employee (FTE). The number of working days lost was even higher in environmental development and housing (14 days) and adult services (13.6 days).

The figures compare with 9.1 days - and 14.4 in adult services - in 2011-2012, when the number of days lost through sickness totalled 38,833 for 4,257 FTEs (excluding employees based in schools). And with 10.4 days – or 12.9 in adult services - in 2012-2013.

Nationally, it is thought that average sickness rates are 6.9 days a year in the public sector and 4.9 in the private sector.

Latest city council data for 2013-2014, released in response to a Freedom of Information request, gives the average number of days lost per FTE by each council department. Other sick-day figures are children services, 9.3 days; finance and resources, nine days; assistant chief executive, 6.7 days; legal and democratic, 4.7 days; public health, 4.1 days.

Council officers recognise the seriousness of the figures. Sue Moorman, head of human resources, said: “We are concerned that levels of sickness are high. We have improved our occupational health provision and have trained managers but recognise there is still more to do.

"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.”

Trade unionists, however, pointed to repeated years of financial austerity and job losses, with public servants striving ever harder to maintain service levels.

Mark Turner, GMB branch secretary, also said that changes in working practices - with employees "hot-desking" in crowded offices - added to the problem.

He said: "Stress levels have gone up. People are coming into work when they are not 100% and then spread illnesses. The re-designing of the office environment has not helped, either. What is certain is that this is not about people swinging the lead."