Town Hall considers setting targets for council workers’ sick days

Islington Town Hall. Photograph: Islington Council.

Islington Council is seeking to stem a rising trend in council workers’ sickness absence with an 18-month ‘robust action plan’, including potentially implementing targets on ‘working days lost’.

Sickness absence has been steadily rising in the Town Hall over the past four years, with the most common reasons as back, neck and musculoskeletal problems, mental health reasons, stress, and depression.

The departments with the highest rates are Housing & Adult Social Services, and Environment & Regeneration. Absences from the latter department alone were blamed for a £1.6m overspend in the council’s budget in September 2018.

A council report by the Town Hall’s head of human resources stated: “The trend in sickness absence across the council is upwards overall and absences peak during July, August and October each year.

“There were 375 Long-Term Sick (LTS) cases within 2018.

“The average amount of days taken as sickness absence per year by employee in the Council is 8.6 days.

“In order to assess the extent of the problem it is necessary to identify how much of this is due to frequent or Long-Term absence (more than 20 days per employee).

“When the long-term cases are factored out, the figures reduce considerably to 3.2 for council employees.”

Housing and Adult Social Services saw a sharp rise in ‘working days lost,’ with a level of around 600 at December 2015 seeing a linear climb to just under 1200 in November 2018, with a grand total over all departments of 96014.5 working days lost over the past 3 years.

As part of its ‘robust action plan,’ the council now intend to reduce spending on occupational health by increasing the number of telephone consultations rather than face-to-face appointment and, encouraging workers to take responsibility for their own wellbeing.

The average number of sick days taken by UK workers was 4.1 in 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics.