Council staff sick days cost over £3m each year

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Staff absences at Scottish Borders Council are costing the local authority more than £3m a year, new figures reveal.

Over the last three financial years, employees taking sick days have cost the council £9.74m, and last year alone £3.33m was spent on sick leave.

A previous freedom of information request to the council found that Scottish Borders Council loses more than 45,000 days to sickness absence each year, with the most common reason for absence being anxiety, depression, or stress.

In between 2013 and 2017, employees of the council took 45,982 sick days due to mental health issues, an average of 9,196 days a year.

A spokesperson for SBC said: “The council remains committed to the health, wellbeing and professional development of all our staff and making sure they feel valued, supported and provided with the right environment, training, skills and knowledge to do their job effectively.

“Scottish Borders Council continues to work in partnership with our occupational health provider to support employees who are unwell and to assist staff in staying at work or helping them to return sooner.

“We also have a helpline which is provided by our occupational health provider and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide support and guidance on health issues. An immediate referral is made if an employee is absent from work because of stress or mental health issues.

“Staff with personal/work related stress are supported through the council’s attendance management policy, which recognises the need for a consistent approach to managing absence while also supporting employees. The council offers a range of training opportunities to all staff to aid managing mental health wellbeing.

“It is worth noting that the overall number of days lost to employee sickness has reduced by over 40 per cent in the last five years, while the number of days lost to staff suffering from anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health issues reduced by almost half in the same period.”

Scottish Borders Council currently employs 4,400 people, meaning each employee takes an average of 10.2 sickness day each year.

According to the Office for National Statistics, an estimated 137.3 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2016. This is equivalent to 4.3 days per worker.

This means that Scottish Borders Council employees take more than twice as many sickness days as the average UK worker.

Furthermore, the most common reason for sickness absence in the UK is minor illnesses, such as common colds, as opposed to Scottish Borders Council, where the biggest cause of sickness absence, in terms of days lost per year, is mental health problems.