Big increase in stress, depression and mental health sick leave among Havering Council staff

There has been a big increase among sick leave taken by Havering Council staff due to stress and depression, the Recorder can reveal.

The number of working days lost for “stress, depression and mental health” reasons increased by almost 700 in the last financial year.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Recorder also showed that the average number of days of per worker remained seven a year.

According to the Confederation of British Industry, the national average number of days off per worker is 6.4 a year.

While time off for heart, blood pressure and circulatory related illnesses was down year-on-year, stress-related increases concerned a union representative.

David Thomas, assistant branch secretary of Havering Unison, said: “The increase in lost days due to the stress, depression and mental health illness of council employees does not surprise Unison.

“This is due to the constant stream of restructures resulting in redundancy and downgrading of staff.”

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He added: “This putting extra strain on the remaining staff who could also be affected by future restructures.”

The council has an independent occupation health service, and says counselling and support is available to help staff cope with stress and anxiety via a phone helpline.

It also employs health and safety experts to conduct sickness audits.

Cllr Michael Armstrong, cabinet member for transformation, said: “We take sickness issues very seriously and have robust management procedures in place to get people back to work as early as possible.

“These have brought the number of days off from around 11 per person to just over seven.

“Our overall approach to health and wellbeing is currently being reviewed and new procedures will be in place next year to help reduce staff sickness.”

The total number of staff sick days taken for stress and mental health reasons was 3,230 in 2010/11 and 3,916 in 2011/12.

Havering Council employs 2,621 staff, who between them took 18,591 days off ill.