Concerns over level of sickness absence among council staff

The council's Lagan Valley Island headquarters.
The council's Lagan Valley Island headquarters.

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council says it has a number of measures in place in a bid to reduce levels of staff sickness absence.

The local authority gave the assurance after councillors voiced serious concerns about the level of absenteeism among staff, particularly the numbers missing work through long-term sickness.

After being presented with Departmental Rolling Absenteeism Reports, members of several council committees raised concerns about the level of sickness absence among employees.

Indeed, minutes of a recent Leisure and Community Development Committee meeting state: “Members particularly noted the level of long-term sickness absence for the rolling period from 1 April 2015 to 30 July 2016, and expressed concern at the additional workload this created for other members of staff.

“Following a detailed discussion, it was agreed to recommend that the Corporate Management Team give serious consideration to this matter, with the Director reporting back further at the next committee meeting.”

Cllr Tim Morrow, Chairman of the Leisure and Community Development Committee, said the issue affects departments across the council, with long-term sickness the key problem.

“We met again last night (November 1) and the figures are slightly better, but it will take time to bring the absence figures down.

“It is something that we are all concerned about, but efforts are being made to address it,” he said.

Responding to a number of questions from the Star, a council spokesperson commented: “The rolling year absence figure to end of July 2016 was 6.5 per cent. This is an average figure, which is calculated using the number of staff off on both short-term and long-term absence as a proportion of the total number of staff.

“The overwhelming majority of staff had no absences during this period.

“The council has a number of measures in place to manage attendance. These include the implementation of policy and procedures, training, wellbeing initiatives and ongoing management of attendance at work.”