Stress and an ‘ageing workforce’ identified as reasons for increased sick days at Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council

A Northern Ireland council is to review its handling of sick days after identifying an “ageing workforce” and stress as driving factors in a rise of staff absence.
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Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s (LCCC) recent corporate committee was presented with an attendance report for the year ending 2023.

Statistics show an increase of 125 sick days from October to December due to “other/musculo-skeletal problems”, with a total of 579 days lost in that period due to the complaint.

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Stress, depression and mental health illness had seen an increase of 47 days to 1,317.

Concern over council staff sick days in Lisburn and Castlereagh. Pic credit: NIWDConcern over council staff sick days in Lisburn and Castlereagh. Pic credit: NIWD
Concern over council staff sick days in Lisburn and Castlereagh. Pic credit: NIWD

Environmental Services has by far the highest amount of staff sick days at 24.79 per employee in the last year, compared to other council departments.

Downshire West Alderman, Allan Ewart said: “This report is quite disappointing.

“The statistics have not come down, they have actually gone up on the last quarter for long-term sickness.

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“For a number of years, the council has said it will look at bringing the number of sick days down, but they are not coming down. It indicates what we are doing is not right.

“This needs review, as whatever strategy the council has, it doesn’t seem to be working.”

Lisburn South councillor, Alan Givan added: “We also have to think about the staff who do turn up for work every day and who end up shouldering more responsibility at work covering for those off sick.

“These staff members have been faithful to their employer.

“The amount of staff off in the environment department is a much higher percent than any other. Why is it particularly higher in this department?

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“Is there more need to invest in more training, so staff do not hurt themselves carrying out functions?”

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A council officer responded: “We have an ageing work force and there is a physical impact, though stress is the major driver in long-term sickness.

“Compared to other councils in Northern Ireland we are still in the better half.

“Many other absentee statistics are down to stress and depression from issues outside of work.

“We currently provide a counselling service and direct employees to it.

“We are reviewing our approach and are consulting in depth with employee groups.”