Croydon Borough Council is appointing a project manager to reduce staff sickness absence.
The council's annual average days lost through sickness is currently 12.37 per person, compared to the London boroughs' average and the Audit Commission's target for 2000/01 of 10.5 days. If the council achieved the Audit Commission's target it would save £622,000 a year.
Elaine Anderton, head of personnel services at Croydon Borough Council, said, "The app- ointment of a sickness absence project manager was an HR team idea. It was decided that due to the council absenteeism record we needed to push the problem higher up the agenda."
The project manager, who will receive £35,000 a year, is one of the council's measures to reduce absence, which include the introduction of flexible working. Job shares, flexitime, authorised home working and compressed hours (fewer days but longer hours) are being introduced.
"I expect to see the results of the project manager within the year, with us meeting the Audit Commission's targets," said Anderton.
Terry Gorman, president of Socpo, said, "Local councils are under a lot of pressure to meet government targets ñ by 2005 we are expected to get the days of work due to sickness down to 9.1, which is almost impossible.
"I am surprised, though, that they feel the need to employ an individual purely for the role of monitoring and improving sickness levels."
The council will consult with unions next month and hope to appoint their project manager in May.