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Stress leads to 6,800 sick days at county council

PUBLISHED: 09:06 07 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:06 07 February 2018

Suffolk County Council headquarters. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk County Council headquarters. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Staff at Suffolk County Council had almost 7,000 days off work due to stress last year – at a cost of more than £750,000 to the taxpayer.

Figures revealed though a Freedom of Information request show council staff took a total of 6,888 stress-related sick days in 2016/17, at a cost to the council of £756,715.

The number of sick days lost to stress has been rising every year for the past four years - up from 5,765 sick days in 2014/15 and 5,962 in 2015/16.

This financial year, 5,014 days have already been lost, at a cost of £521,040.

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at mental health charity Mind, said: “It’s concerning that more council workers are needing to take long-term sick leave due to stress-related problems.

“It’s not clear whether it’s that these issues are on the rise or, more positively, whether it’s now more acceptable for staff to be open when they need time off due to stress.

“Either way, employers can’t deny that there’s a problem that needs addressing.

“Mind’s research shows that public sector employees are more likely to say their mental health was poorer than private sector workers, and that they are more likely to feel anxious at work several times a month.

Frequently cited causes of poor mental health at work included long working hours, low pay, regular inspections and lack of interaction with colleagues. “Most employees will encounter some level of stress in their jobs, but the onus is on employers to support their staff through difficult times, so that they can come into work at their best and most productive.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “Mental health is a key aspect of overall health and wellbeing, and we take seriously our responsibility to support staff who experience difficulties in this area.

“We provide a range of support which includes Occupational Health, confidential Employee Assistance Programme, and there are a range of policies, on-line learning materials and toolkits for managers so that they can support team members effectively.

“In addition of course there are external sources of support such as family networks and GPs.”

For more information on how to manage stress visit www.mind.org.uk/stress

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