In sick pay and in health

Sick pay is a hallmark of a civilised society, one that believes in a safety net for those who are unable to work – either temporarily or permanently.

It’s bad enough suffering from one or more of the myriad of afflictions which can strike at any one of us without worrying about coping financially.

This is a point worth remembering when reading the story about staff absenteeism costing Scottish Borders Council in excess of £3.7million during 2014/15 on page 7 of this week’s issue. Council leader David Parker says attendance levels are improving and when one learns that £3.7million figure was out of a total annual wage bill of £121.7million for the local authority’s 6,131 workforce, it tends to put matters into perspective.

Stress – caused by cost-cutting employers, resulting in increased workloads – is often blamed for absence. And for those still at work, there is even more pressure covering for missing colleagues. A vicious circle indeed.

Cutting costs can often make good business sense – but not at the expense of employees’ health. It’s surely more productive to have a worker at work than at home on the sick.

Of course there will be a minority more adept at swinging the lead, causing resentment among other members of the workforce. But this is a problem which human resources departments should be able to tackle – without adversely affecting the hard-working majority.