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MORE than 2,800 Wirral Council staff have attended a stress awareness training course – but the condition is still proving to be the biggest cause of sickness absence.

Workloads and “management style” have been cited by local authority workers in a recent staff survey as being the primary reasons they are stressed-out and off sick.

A new report by the Human Resources department says mental health issues are to blame for 30% of sick leave.

This rises to 38% for social services staff.

The review shows projected days lost per employee is currently 9.17 compared to 10.23 last year.

Managers say new procedures are in place to control sickness effectively.

Several initiatives have been launched to improve performance, including appointing an in-house occupational health nurse, stress management advice and a flu vaccination programme.

The authority has also tightened up its absence management procedures and introduced a mandatory referral to occupational health for all absences after four weeks.

But cost-cutting, the threat of redundancy and major structural shake-ups are taking their toll.

The report says: “The number of people employed by the council will continue to reduce as major change programmes are implemented to increase efficiency and make financial savings.

"This has and continues to create a very uncertain and difficult context for managers and employees concerned about the level of change and job security.”

Staffing has been increased in the HR department to review all long-term absence cases, there are currently 122 such cases in the system.