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Council sickness bill rises by £500,000 in a year
Workers taking time off sick is costing Bradford Council almost £6.5 million a year, it has been revealed.
Although short-term sickness absence dropped in 2012/13, the number of people being signed off long-term sick increased to 56.05 per cent of total absentees – up from 52.91 per cent in 2010/11 and put nearly £500,000 more on the bill.
Coun Glen Miller, leader of the opposition Conservative group at the Council, said the increase in long-term absentees had seen sick pay increase from £5,998,475 in 2011/12 to £6,427,192 in the last financial year.
“This is a disaster at a time when the Council is looking to reduce costs and protect front line services,” said Coun Miller. “We have seen five small libraries closed to save £70,000 per year while spending £6.5m on sickness, with this having increased by enough to protect the libraries, the pools that were closed and more.
“The total increase in long-term sickness suggests that we desperately need to look at whether the Council is doing enough to support employees to stay at work by better managing stress and similar illnesses.”
But Council leader Coun David Green said they were addressing the issue.
“We have been looking at pressures on staff, and how they are dealing with that, for the last 18 months,” he said. “It is too early to say if what we are doing is bearing fruit. Some of these measures will take longer to bear fruit.”
Coun Green conceded there had been an increase in sick pay and the number of long-term absences.
He said: “Everyone agrees that the lower that we can decrease the sickness levels of staff, the better it is for individuals and the organisation.
“The current cost of sickness in the Council is lower that the cost that we inherited in 2010 by about £350,000.
“We have reduced the total figure of sickness cost. It is a shame that Coun Miller was not more concerned with these figures when his party was in control. If he had bothered to read the publicly-available papers that have gone to the Council executive and scrutiny, he would have recognised that the Council is doing what he is asking for.”
Coun Green said the long-term sickness absence rate had grown by three per cent, adding: “Some of these are really unfortunate issues for people concerned – people who get seriously debilitating illnesses.”
Liberal Democrat group leader, Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, described the Council’s sickness policy as “generous”.
On the increased cost of sickness absence, she said: “We need to do all we can to ensure that people are not taking advantage, but at the same time making sure they are not being put under too much pressure.”
In October, the Council’s chief executive Tony Reeves said the number of sick days taken by Council workers must be cut if the authority is to be financially secure.
Sickness rates among Council employees had been falling each year since 2005, but rose slightly in the past year, to an average of 10.44 days per employee.
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