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Warwickshire County Council staff face relentless workloads as sick days average 8.99 a year

By Andy Mitchell

Local Democracy Reporter

A SENIOR director at Warwickshire County Councils admits the balance between staff wellbeing and the need to save money is “one of the top issues” the authority faces.

Strategic director for resources Rob Powell raised the quandary in response to questions over the level of staff sickness at the council.

A performance report for the resources, fire and rescue overview and scrutiny committee showed the average number of days that a full-time equivalent member of council staff took off sick in the last financial year was 8.99 – a fraction within target.

Cllr Tim Sinclair (Con, Stratford North) said that the rate would be seen as “incredibly high” in a commercial setting but Mr Powell explained that the overall figure was skewed by sectors that carry greater risk of sickness.

Warwickshire County Council
Warwickshire County Council

He said that the figure had “come down quite a bit”, adding: “Not many years ago, I think we were at 12 days.

“The reality is we have some groups within the workforce where sickness is very much higher and when you strip out some of those higher risk service areas, the average is a lot lower.

“The service areas with the higher levels of sickness tend to be around social care. Both physical and emotional reasons can be quite material to sickness levels there with some of the issues that are being dealt with by those colleagues, as I am sure you can imagine.”

However, Mr Powell also acknowledged that stress and mental health issues remain “significant factors”, particularly given the pressure on local authorities to do more with less.

“We have put in huge effort on wellbeing at work and I think the organisation is very different – in a good way – on wellbeing,” he said.

“All of that said, workloads are relentless for staff, the pressures they are dealing with are huge. We are trying to balance the increase in demand with quite serious financial savings at the same time.

“It is a real challenge and one of the top issues for us to try to get right and I think it is reflected in those figures.”

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