Council sick days cost us £14 million

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SICK days cost Derbyshire County Council more than £14m last year.

Employees at the local authority - totalling over 31,000 people – took an average of 6.39 days off each as a result of illness – costing taxpayers £14m a year in sick pay.

But the council’s sickness rate was better than the national average for public sector staff - at 8.6 days per person.

For school staff sick pay cost £7,145,640, between January 1 and December 31, 2011 and non school staff cost £6,871,564.

More than 280,128.15 working days were lost last year due to a range of ailments including back pain, stomach upsets and stress.

The information, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, show the top reasons for being off sick were stress and depression – with 39,650.64 days lost to these illnesses. Muscular and skeletal disorders accounted for 20,692.17 days off while 20,294.55 days were lost to back and neck problems.

The figures show just over 61 per cent of the 31,056 work force was off with illness at some point last year.

However the sickness rate compared favourably with many other local authorities.

Nationally public sector staff have an average of 8.6 days off a year per employee.

And private sector workers have an average of 6.4 days off nationally.

Robert Oxley, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Unlike too many other councils Derbyshire County Council has reduced its sickness levels to those commonly found in the private sector.

“While these may be lower than the local government average, it is on par with private sector employers which is exactly where it should be.”

A spokesman for the council said: “In common with most other employers we pay our staff when they are off sick. The cost for paying staff when they were off sick last year was 2.8 per cent of our total wage bill.

“Our sickness rates are low – our average is 6.39 days sick per employee per year against the national local government average of 8.6.

“The biggest recorded cause of sickness is back, joint and muscle problems. Many of our staff - residential care workers and road workers for example - have physically demanding jobs and these can take their toll on our employees’ health.

“We are always doing what we can to reduce our sickness rates and actively work with employees who have been off sick to help them return to work as soon as possible.”