Crackdown on Plymouth council staff taking sick days
COUNCIL staff who are “taking the Mick” by taking too many sick days are facing a crackdown.
The average Plymouth council worker took nearly 10 days off sick in the year to last November, costing the taxpayer £2.25million, according to new figures revealed this week.
The figure is an improvement on 2010, when city workers each called in sick an average of 12.88 days.
But, in spite of promises to get better, council managers failed to get staff off their sickbeds for an average of 9.88 days – worse than the record in April.
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Deputy leader Cllr Pete Smith told a scrutiny panel: “These figures are not acceptable.” He said department managers had been told to “use the procedures we have” to deal with “the ones who are taking the Mick and abusing the system”.
Cllr Smith was responding to a call by Conservative councillors to deal with the sickness rates, which worsened through 2012. Four departments showed particularly high rates of sickness.
Adult social care peaked at an annual average of 15.11 days in November last year. Democracy and Governance staff recorded an annual rate of 10.95 per cent up to November. Environmental services had its worst month last April, at 11.77 days and a low of 10.31 days in October. Children’s social care had a peak of 11.89 per cent, with every month above 10 per cent.
A 2010 survey by the Confederation of British Industry showed that private sector workers each took just 5.9 days off sick in the whole year.
Plymouth City Council has already begun its crackdown. Last year 2012, 40 staff faced “capability assessments”, Mark Grimley, the council’s assistant director for human resources told a budget scrutiny panel. As a result 13 were dismissed or retired. The council now has 24 cases where employees have been off for more than 100 days – a reduction from a high of more than 100.
“We have an older than average workforce than other local authorities, reflecting the location of Plymouth,” a council spokeswoman said. “This means that in areas such as environmental services and adult social care (domiciliary care) where there is a requirement for regular lifting, that we see an increased rate of muscular-skeletal issues.
“We also run services, such as school catering, meals on wheels and domiciliary care, where those with certain infections must remain out of the workplace to prevent spread. There is also an issue that we are not ducking about managers taking early action.”
The total cost of sickness absence was £2.25million up to December 2012 last year – about 3per cent of the total wage bill. This has fallen from £2.8million since December 2011.
Mr Grimley will take direct control of sickness cases in three key departments: adult social care, environmental service and children’s social care.
Managers will also be held to account and face disciplinary action if they fail to manage staff effectively.
Cllr Ian Bowyer (Con, Eggbuckland), a member of the scrutiny panel, said that performance had “flat-lined” during the year, going from an average of 9.7 per cent to 9.88 per cent.
He called for more information about the cost to the council.
Cllr David James (Con, Plympton St Mary) said: “We started getting absences down, but now it’s gradually creeping up again. Our target is six days. Absences put an extra load on other staff and cost the council a lot of money which could be better spent elsewhere.”