Borough staff have 10 per cent fewer days off sick due to stress

West Suffolk House
West Suffolk House
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In spite of councils facing tough decisions on services, stress levels seem to be dropping at West Suffolk House.

A freedom of information request by the Bury Free Press for figures on staff absence at St Edmundsbury Borough Council in 2011 and 2012 shows a significant drop in stress related absences.

The figures reveal that in 2011 there were 2,958 sickness days off among the equivalent of 417 full-time staff, or 7.09 days per person. Of those, 442 days, or 1.06 per person, were ‘anxiety, depression, stress’.

In 2012 the staff, then the equivalent of 415 full timers, had 2,915 days off sick, or 7.02 per person, of which 395 were stress related, or 0.95 days per person.

That means that while total days sick were down by 1.4 per cent on 2011, the number due to stress was down 10 per cent.

A council spokesperson said: “Part of managing the wide-reaching change taking place in local government, and in this council, is ensuring we protect services by maintaining performance levels.

“Stress often accompanies change and the most effective way of minimising its effects is good communication.”

But the impact of job insecurity was seen in the council’s property and engineering department in 2011 when a Highways Agency contract was moving from St Edmundsbury to Suffolk County Council.

Its equivalent of 39.6 full time staff clocked 573.5 sick days of which 221 were stress related which was half the total for the whole council. It was the equivalent of 5.58 days per person where the next highest was 1.41 days.

Stress has overtaken all other conditions as a cause for long term absence in the UK, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development says.

In a report on a survey last October it said there were strong links between job security and stress levels.

The mental health charity Mind says 500,000 people in the UK experience work related stress at a level they believe is making them ill.

It also says 12 million adults visit their GP with mental health problems each year, ‘much of it stress related’.

It adds: “Life is stressful. What matters is that you recognise when you are under so much stress that it may be harmful.”

For advice on stress visit the Mind website