Birmingham City Council staff took 58,635 days off sick between April and July this year new figures have revealed.
The figure, amounting to almost four days per employee, has prompted a review of the city council’s sickness absence policy.
And middle managers who fail to monitor and keep tabs on sickness levels could be in the firing line according to a report to the council’s human resources committee.
The latest absence figures show that on average staff are taking 11.64 days off a year against a target of 9.25. In the private sector the UK average is about 6.6 days per year.
It is estimated that every additional day on the average rate cost the council taxpayer £3 million in costs for staff cover – with agency fees, overtime rates or delays in services.
A breakdown of figures shows that the highest levels of absence are not surprisingly where there aRE more demanding front line jobs, such as children’s services and adults and communities which employ large numbers of carers and social workers.
The housing and neighbourhoods department also has above average absence rates.
Chairman of the human resources committee Coun Muhammad Afzal (Lab, Aston) said that all indications are that the sickness management policy, which involves regular contact with absent staff, including occupational health consultations and home visits for longer term problems, is adequate.
But he said: “The policy is not being applied consistently.
“Some managers are and some are not. It is not just about keeping check, but encouraging and supporting them at work.”
He said that although there are demanding jobs, such as in child protection, there was no reason why absence levels should not be lower.
“In 2004 when I was cabinet member for human resources the level was nine days, in eight years it has gone up,” he added.
The report says that failure by managers to implement the sickness policy could result in disciplinary action.
In August a total of 136 staff had been off for more than six months, with 35 as a result of stress or depression, 19 due to a fracture or serious injury, 17 with a tumour or cancer and eight with the bad back and 14 with other musculoskeletal complaints.
Long term absences are highest among children’s services staff.