Suffolk: Cuts stress puts county council top of the sickness league

SUFFOLK: More staff from the county council spent six months or more off work than any other local authority in Britain, it emerged today.

And according to union officials the cuts and strain of the last year will undoubtedly have an damaging effect on the wellbeing of the workforce.

According to figures from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 208 county council employees were off sick for six months or more in the 12 months between April 2009 and March last year.

However, county bosses said that figure was less than one per cent of its total workforce and pledged to reduce the number even further.

The next highest figure came from Cornwall council which underwent major reorganisation and became a unitary county council.

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They had 198 people on long-term sickness at some point during the year.

A spokeswoman for UNISON said the figures were worrying, and suggested that staff were having difficulty in facing the strains which accompanied the major changes being implemented at the authority.

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However the county council defended the figures, claiming that it represented less than one per cent of its workforce.

The spokeswoman for UNISON said: “Long-term staff sickness is something that has a wide and negative effect for everyone, first and foremost on the person who is ill and the physical and mental impact that it has on them.

“Secondly, the performance of the job or service they deliver and the knock-on effect on morale in the workplace. The cuts and strain of the last year, and of the months to come, will undoubtedly have a damaging effect on the wellbeing of the workforce as a whole.”

Sally Marlow, head of Human Resources at Suffolk County Council said: “We take the health and wellbeing of our staff extremely seriously.

“The number of staff on long-term sick leave between April 2009 and March 2010 represented less than one per cent of our entire 28,000 workforce.

“Currently the figure is less than half a per cent of the workforce. However, we are committed to reducing this number and remain committed to improving and expanding support services that staff can access.”

She added: “We are in the process of implementing a new occupational health contract which will focus on managing absence and staff returning to work but equally will be about prevention and the health and wellbeing of our employees.”

n Have strains at the county council contributed to the high level of long-term sickness? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail evening

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