Sickness absence costs local council £29.4m

Staff taking sick leave at Lancashire County Council cost local taxpayers £29.4m last year, according to newspaper reports.

That equates to an average of 10.5 days lost for each of the 44,000 people employed by the authority – and in some departments, it was as high as 19 days off sick per worker.

CBI figures show that the private sector, in comparison, lost only 6.8 days per employee in sick leave in 2004.

County councillor Keith Riley, chairman of the council’s performance committee, said: “I want to make it clear that we do take the problem of absence seriously – we are not blasé about this at all. In the past year several staff have been dismissed because of unacceptable levels of absence.”

The CBI said that if the public sector could reduce its absence rate to the private sector average, absence would fall by more than 20 million days and save the UK taxpayer £1.2bn a year.

Jane McLeod, head of HR at the council, admitted the level of absenteeism had increased. She told the Citizen newspaper: “There is substantial room for improvement, particularly in care and social services.”

Employees in those departments took an average of 19 days off sick per year.

McLeod said the authority had considerably exceeded the target of losing no more than 9.1 days per employee, but blamed better reporting practices, in part, for the rise in the figures.

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