More than 33,000 days lost to staff sickness at city council

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Portsmouth City Council lost more than 33,000 days due to staff sickness last year – with mental health-related absences rising for two consecutive years.

Council figures revealed that for the year 2015/16, 33,119 working days were lost due to sickness among the council’s 3,617 employees. Of these days, 7,264 (21.93 per cent) were cited as for psychological sickness such as stress, anxiety and depression. This is an increase of 130 days lost due to mental ill health from the previous year, following a rise of more than 200 days from 2013/14 to 2014/15.

Although the overall number of staff sick days has fallen over time, mental health-related absences have risen for two consecutive years. In 2014/15, a total of 34,012 days were lost to sickness, with 7,134 of these absences (20.97 per cent) cited as mental health-related. In 2014/15 it was 34,114 days lost with 6,933 (20.32 per cent).

In the same 12 months leading up to May 2016 that the number of psychological sickness increased, the council reduced staffing levels by 357 from 3,974 to 3,617.

Cllr Lee Mason, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: ‘The figures show a small increase in the amount of sickness absence attributed to psychological conditions – overall absence figures remain fairly stable.’

The total number of sick days per employee has reduced a lot in recent years.

In 2013 the average was around 10.5 per employee per year, compared to the current total of 8.42.

Cllr Mason added: ‘We offer flexible working arrangements and a number of approaches to improve employee wellbeing.’

Information obtained by The News from a Freedom of Information request revealed that in 2015/16, 55 council employees had taken a period of sick leave because of psychological illness. The longest time an employee has been continuously signed off work because of mental health issues was 359 days.

Mental health charity Solent Mind’s CEO Richard Barritt said: ‘We are always concerned about mental health issues in the workplace, which may well be on the rise. We have worked with local employers on workplace wellbeing and would be happy to offer Portsmouth City Council, or any other local employer, advice’

Talking Change is run by Solent NHS Trust and can be contacted on (023) 9289 2928 or solent.nhs.uk/talkingchange