Page last updated at 08:21 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

NI council sick days top 121,000

Refuse collection - generic
The council said that many jobs were physically demanding, like bin collection

More than 121,000 days are lost through absenteeism at local councils across Northern Ireland, the Local Government Auditor has said.

The figures are improving but they still equate to 12 days of absenteeism per employee each year.

Carrickfergus Borough Council has the highest rate with only 69 of its 193 staff having a full attendance record.

The council said 43 members of staff had a "relatively low sickness record of five days or less across the year".

Ian Eagleson, Director of Support Services with the council, said most employees were "turning in a full attendance record or have very little absence from work".

"As a relatively small employer, with 148 full time and 45 part time employees, we are particularly vulnerable to attendance statistics being skewed by just a few isolated long term cases," he said.

"In one of the years under review, for example, approximately 85% of all absence was related to just 15% of employees who unfortunately experienced serious illness."

He said that more than 80 staff had "very physical, outdoor jobs such as bin collection, street sweeping and grave digging".

The Chief Local Government Auditor said the 2008-09 figures for all 26 councils were 9% lower than the previous year.

The report found, however, that absenteeism rates remained higher than the Northern Ireland Civil Service rate and made recommendations on reducing the figures.

Stress

"Increased staff efficiency will be particularly welcome for councils given the current economic climate," the report said.

The study found that stress, depression, mental health and fatigue remain the most significant cause of days lost.

The conditions were responsible for 23% of days lost, but the figure was down on the 24% detected in the previous year.

In Ballymoney Borough Council 47% of the total days lost were blamed on stress, a figure which was four times the rate of councils in Magherafelt, Fermanagh, North Down and Armagh.

The report added: "It is disappointing to note that in a period of improving absenteeism only seven of the 20 councils were able to meet the 2008-09 absenteeism target they had set.

"Councils should ensure the targets set for absenteeism are challenging but at the same time realistic.

"Although the absenteeism rate for Northern Ireland councils is lower than both the Northern Ireland Housing Executive rate and the Northern Ireland Health Service rate, it is higher than the Northern Ireland Civil Service rate."



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