Prison officers take most time off sick

Prison
officers in England and Wales took more sick days than any other group of
workers in the UK last year, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

Female
officers were the worst affected, taking an average of 22 days off, while their
male counterparts took 16 days.

The
Prison Officers Association said that hostile working conditions and assaults
on staff were to blame for high absence levels.

The
NAO’s report said high levels of anxiety, stress and depression were among
reasons given for absence, which cost the Prison Service £80m in 2002-2003.

Sir
John Bourn, the NAO’s controller and auditor general, said cutting the number
of days staff took off sick would allow the Prison Service to invest money in
improving prison regimes.

Bourn
said it was imperative that governors worked more closely with staff to improve
morale and overcome the culture of absenteeism prevalent in some prisons.

By Michael Millar

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