WIRRAL Council employees will have taken an average of nearly ten days’ sick leave this year – with the majority of absences caused by stress, anxiety and depression.

A new report highlights “an increasing trend in levels of absence across the authority” with a projected end of year figure of 10.28 sick days per person against a target of 9.5.

And that number spirals for staff in social services and technical services to more than 16 days.

The review shows mental health issues continue to be the most frequent cause of absence across the council - anxiety, stress and depression are all cited.

Council leader Cllr Phil Davies said: "It is a real cause for concern and we are taking this report very seriously.

"I know HR are helping a lot of our people who are off with stress and resources have been increased to help them do that.

"Stress is the biggest cause of sickness absence across the public sector; police, NHS staff, social services, all are affected.

"It's no real surprise given that public sector workers are under the cosh so much these days from Government 'austerity' measures.

"The stress levels among our workers - who do a tremendous job day in and day out - are the sort of thing that needs to be played-back to Government to show them that people are finding it extremely difficult to cope.

"Austerity is wrong, and this is one of its byproducts."

Projected levels show 34% of council employees reporting sick will do so due to mental health problems. 

The average time taken off work due to illness across the public sector in England is around seven days, with stress being the number-one reason.

Wirral’s teachers take the fewest sick days, with around 3.8 per person projected by the end of the year.

Staffing has been increased in the local authority's human resources department to review all long-term absence cases.

Officers will work alongside managers to "ensure there is an action plan in place and that cases are managed appropriately in accordance with policy." 

There are currently 127 "live" cases on the system.

The report by HR manager Tony Williams is to the authority’s employment committee, and states: “Failure to pro-actively manage sickness absence through early intervention, improved management information and health and wellbeing initiatives could leave the council open to legal challenge and increased costs.”

The document says a number of measures have been put in place to try to reduce sickness absence including health advice, free flu jabs to key workers and “stress management tools” being made available for managers and staff.