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Job cuts blamed for sickness rate
A high sickness rate at Bradford Council is being blamed on a cost-cutting programme which axed managers.
Since 2010, staffing restructures have saved the authority £10 million a year.
But stripping out layers of management has left the remaining senior staff feeling overwhelmed or not adequately trained, so they are less able to tackle absenteeism, a new report suggests.
A Council crackdown on sickness absence has missed its target this year, with staff still off for an average of two working weeks a year.
Sickness rates had been falling each year since 2005, but rose slightly in the past year, to an average of 10.44 days per employee. The target was 9.03 working days.
The new report, by Matt Burghardt, interim head of human resources, said this rise happened during a “major disruption of services” caused by management restructures.
He said: “Some anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that perhaps not surprisingly, two events occurred simultaneously: “[Firstly], a lot of experienced managers left employment through delayering and that left a number of managers feeling overwhelmed by their expanding roles and some new managers not adequately trained.
“[Secondly, there was] a large increase in transactional support sickness with changes in management which led to less rigorous overview of this issue.”
The report says that now managers who have had no training in tackling absenteeism are being enrolled in a new training programme.
Council leader David Green said managers feeling inadequately trained was only one part of the issue.
He said reducing staff levels meant there were now people with responsibilities that they needed training for, including absentee management, and that a HR process was in place to address that.
“Everyone has got to be concerned about the levels of staff sickness, because not only is it about the continued provision of Council services, but also about the individuals who are effected. Those people who are sick and ill,” he said.
He said that comparisons to the private sector sickness levels could be misleading if looking at an overall picture.
Councillor Glen Miller, leader of the Conservative group, said blaming the restructure was a “pathetic excuse” for missing the target.
He said: “I would encourage managers and line managers to monitor the sickness levels more closely. It’s not a excuse to say that because of the delayering of management that we have missed this.”
But Unison said the Government’s “savage cuts” to jobs meant those left behind were struggling to cope.
Earlier this year, chief executive Tony Reeves said a restructure of the Council’s senior management structure in 2010 had saved £1m a year, and a further review of management at all levels across the Council had brought about an extra annual saving of £9m.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, public sector employees took an average of 7.9 days sick in 2012, compared to 5.7 sick days per employee in the private sector.
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