STAFF at Suffolk County Council are taking an average of nearly ten days off sick each year, it has been revealed.

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The sickness rate at Suffolk County Council last year was 9.96 days per person - meaning more than 65,800 days were lost due to ill health.

The figures relate to non-school employees - but when you take into consideration the number of sickness days taken by teachers, assistants, school admin staff and caretakers the figure rises to a shocking 139,507 days.

Despite facing a sickness bill of more than £5m, Suffolk County Council defended the figures.

A spokeswoman said: “Suffolk County Council’s absence figures are in line with the local government average.

“We remain committed to supporting our staff and continue to develop ways to reduce the levels of absence and to improve health and wellbeing of our staff.

“Some of the methods we are using to reduce the levels of absence include a new occupational health contract, a proactive approach to managing long term illness and an employee assistance programme, which includes a 24/7, 365 day per year helpline available to all staff.”

The figures, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information request, also put the council above the UK average of 6.5 days per person which was calculated by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Kathy Pollard, leader of the Ipswich Liberal Democrat Party, said: “It is not good enough to say that the council’s figures are in line with the local government average.

“I have argued for many years that there should be a Human Resources subcommittee which examines issues like this.

“Staff have clearly been under a great deal of strain under the proposals contained in the New Strategic Direction.

“All steps should now be taken to improve staff morale and examine the causes of sickness absence in detail, if they are to be improved.”

Charlotte Linacre, Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance added: “Of course genuine sickness needs understanding and employees on long term sick leave should be given help to get back to work where possible.

“But the number of sick days taken at Suffolk Council is above the national average, which suggests that there is an issue with absenteeism or engagement. “It’s crucial while the budgets are being brought down that the culture at the councils is geared towards productivity so that money isn’t wasted and taxpayers aren’t getting a raw deal.”

Meanwhile, the sickness rate in Essex during the last financial year was 8.8 days.

17 comments

  • Time to retire this broke and broken machine.

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    Peter Wyburn

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • Another load of taxpayers money given away, if it's the same people playing this game, surely the council should check them out, if they are caught out, then sack them, but then again, they are working most of the time, unlike some lay abouts, who think it's their rights to milk the system, why can't these people be properly medically checked, so it would cost money, but then again save mountains of money.

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    Keith Drury

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • Of course sickness rates are lower in the private sector - they've had their rights stripped away by greedy employers and government legislation so that they have to turn up even when they're ill.

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    Nigel Noakes

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • @Nigel Noakes: That's the kind of uncomfortable truth the so-called "readers" of this local rag don't want to be told (it's also one that doesn't get reported in papers like this!)

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    martha farquhar

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • Another example, I fear, of an autocratic structure without direct leadership, its managers being more focused on gaining 'brownie points' and retaining their jobs rather than looking after the welfare of their staff.

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    Brian Betts

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • It's not all SCC workers. I've not had ten days off sick in the last ten years!

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    Public Purson

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • It would be most interesting to know where the majority of these "days off" are occurring...and then try to address the issues that are really at the root of the problem.

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    Dogberry

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • what a joke ! these people need to get in the real world.. i know many people who work in the public sector , and most would not survive in the private sector for one day . They are so caught up in the world of low expectations ..... many friends work when they want to , usually don't bother going in on a friday ( although they say that they worked through their lunchbreaks !!!!)and at the end of it , have a nice salary pension to leave with ..... the councils seem to forget that it is our money , and spend it with abandon , and this sickness story is just another example of the staff taking everyone for a ride ....

    Report this comment

    sgm

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • These council workers need to try being self employed.No paid holidays,sick pay or big pensions when they retire.

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    honeysucker

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • I bet if you looked at the sickness rates in other big local employers (e.g. Port of Felixstowe) you would get comparable results, and they pay very similar levels of sick pay to staff. Except of course you can't because the Freedom of Information Act doesn't apply to them and so we don't know what private sector figures are like in comparison. And don't tell me its different because its not taxpayers money - where do you think supermarkets, insurance companies, builders etc etc etc get their money from ? It all comes from us one way or another, there is no other money that mysteriously comes from somewhere else !!!

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    bettycoltrane

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • Well what about the extra dayshours worked by public sector workers for which they do not get paid... even out the story Evening Star. We all know how much you hate the council and its workers, but at least pretend to paint a balanced picture.

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    Fat Lady Sings

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • Thank you tophatt and Ivan! You are right. I have NEVER had a day off sick from Suffolk County Council (nor am I a manager) but of course we ALL get criticised for this - both by the papers and by readers who know no better. I work with the elderly and earn MUCH less than in the private sector but do it because of the job satisfaction. The stresses are horrible at the moment with the cuts.

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    Capt-sensible

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • Now there's a solution Kathy, let's set up a committee to talk about the problem. Do any of these comittees actually put anything in place or merely contribute to global warming with their hot air? How about finding out why these bods are off sick, the private sector would have some of the slackers out the door if they can't do the job anymore, that's not to say that they are all swinging the lead. Also bear in mind its not just paying the ones that are sick that costs money, someone has to be paid to do their job while they are off (or other staff work harder, are put under more pressure and end up going off with stress probably)

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    Citizen

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • Sickening. And what happens if a potential human resources committee has so many off sick they have to set up a committee to look at the H.R.C. sickness rate? And then of course, if the subsequent committee......................

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    JOHN BURLS

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • well if you pay people to have sick days ay work then you are encouraging sick leave, you compare figures to most workers who dont get paid for being off sick, im sure you see massive difference.

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    beachboy

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • I don't imagine it's much different to anywhere else. We all know people who milk 'being sick' for all it's worth and it's these people who bump the average days up. I'm sure there are people who have never taken a day sick, and they have been made to look bad because of this. What's the point? Who really needs to know?

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    tophatt

    Friday, May 13, 2011

  • With the amount of messing around within the council - jobs being threatened, jobs being lost, services being withdrawn and then reinstated, no one knowing if the New Stupid Direction is going to scythe through their role within the the council - it is totally unsurprising to find that staff illness is high. Staff are depressed and stressed - not just because of the threat to their jobs but at the way the services they provide are being ruined.

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    Ivan Terrible

    Friday, May 13, 2011

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