DESPITE a concerted effort to reduce the number of days lost through sick leave at Wirral Council, a new report shows sickness levels have actually increased.

Last year a major drive was launched to reduce sickness days.

The Globe reported at the time that senior management said they had brought in new procedures "to control sickness effectively."

But self-evidently those measures have not had the desired effect.

The average number of days each employee will take off sick has risen to over 11 per year - almost two days more than before the crackdown began.

A corporate governance report has "red-flagged" sick leave reduction moves as failing to hit agreed measures.

It says: "It is forecast that the year-end sickness absence will be 1.92 days above the 9.75 day target.

"However management action is being taken to reduce the level of sickness absence across the council including proposed changes to the sickness policy and triggers from September.

"Strategic director-led sessions [will be held] with managers to set expectations and the development of an employee well being plan are expected to bring improvements."

The issue is so pressing a special report has been compiled for this week's meeting of the council cabinet, the fist to convene after the summer break.

The reasons behind the failure are unknown at this point.

But last year although than 2,800 staff attended stress awareness training courses, the condition was still proving to be the biggest cause of sickness absence.

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

And the town hall's Human Resources department said mental health issues were to blame for 30% of sick leave.

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

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

But the HR department warned cost-cutting, the threat of redundancy and major structural shake-ups taking their toll: “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.”

  • The same report has also red-flagged an almost total lack of staff appraisals being carried out by managers.

In the first quarter of the year, just 2% of the workforce had had their annual review.

By the end of August 26% had been completed, including 58% of management appraisals.

"Management action" is being taken to further improve the number completed on time.