Council’s £80k bill for stress

TEN per cent of Scarborough Council employees took time off work because of stress over a one-year period, new figures have revealed.

In the 2009/10 financial year, 1,080 working days were lost to stress, costing the taxpayer £84,000.

A total of 114 different Scarborough Council workers took time off because the condition over the period.

Of those employees, the average took nine-and-a-half days in sickness leave because of stress.

Dr David Ames, of West Ayton Surgery, said he was surprised by the figures, but pointed out that stress was not necessarily caused in the workplace.

“People come under all sorts of pressures,” he said. “Often they have financial or personal difficulties through no fault of their own.

“However I do think that as a society as a whole we have to address the work life balance.

“Doctors and GPs can help with the symptoms of stress but the treatment is not medical.”

Stress accounted for 17.5 per cent of the 6,154 days in sickness leave which were taken by Scarborough Council staff in 2009/10.

That figure was below the national average however. Almost a quarter of sick days each member of local government staff typically declares in Britain is down to stress-related conditions.

In 2009/10, over five million days off were taken by local authority employees because of mental health problems nationally, costing the country more than £500 million.

Scarborough Council’s head of human resources and performance Roger Kaye said that the issue of stress-related illness and the welfare of staff was taken extremely seriously by the local authority.

Council employees suffering from stress-related illnesses are offered counselling either at work or in their homes.

The service is offered in partnership with the mental health charity MIND and other professional counsellors.

Mr Kaye added: “In addition, depending on the circumstances of the individual, the council may refer a person suffering from a stress-related issue to the occupational health service, where the council also seeks advice on how to deal with specific health-related circumstances.

“The council has recently reviewed and implemented a new comprehensive sickness absence policy which encourages early intervention in all forms of sickness absence, including stress-related illness.

“The council also has a separate policy on the management of stress at work and provides training to managers, with a more recent training programme being organised through MIND.

“The council carries out return to work interviews and ensures there is regular contact with employees on sickness absence, with managers holding one-on-ones and appraisal reviews to identify early circumstances of work-related stress problems.

“It should be noted that during 2009/10 the average number of days lost to sickness absence overall was just 7.66, lower than the 9.37 figure recorded in the previous year.”