A third of staff leaving the Vale of Glamorgan Council leave "involuntarily"

Council Tax payers are now having to pay the salaries of  council employees who – on average – aren’t at their desks for almost 10 working days a year because of claimed sickness. 70% are “long-term absences” – and the most common cause cited is “stress” 

The amount of time-off claimed for “sickness” amongst the staff of the Vale of Glamorgan Council is now running at an average rate of almost 10 days a year – the equivalent of an extra fortnight off on full pay every year for every council employee. 

The most common cause of reported sickness (29%) is “stress” – the same cause which was highlighted last year and the year before.

The Vale Council had taken a range of measures which it had said would  bring down the number of days claimed on the sick amongst its staff, but  the figures for 2015/16 are even higher than the year before.

The average number of days off claimed for sickness per full-time employee in the year 2015/16 is 9.56 days.  In the previous year 2014/15 the an average of 9.44 days off per year per employee had been claimed.

The worst directorate in the council for sickness claims is  Social Services where, on average, each employee is now off work for 13.57 days per year.

The Vale Council is now starting what it calls a “Managing Attendance at
Work Policy” which concentrates onlong-term absence”  – a phenomenon which its says accounts for “ nearly 70% of all sickness absence  – 37% of which is put down to alleged “stress”.

This month the council is  starting a new training programme for managers on the new attendance policy prior to its official launch in October 2016.

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  1. Christopher David says:

    Stress phah.

  2. ColinD says:

    I would hazard a guess that this isn’t being helped by front line services continuously being squeezed and cut whilst middle / senior managers who contribute very little operationally are on countdown until they can access their fat pensions.

    As an aside Christopher David, whether it is legitimate or not, mental illness is nothing to be mocked or joked about whether your comment is intended to be tongue-in-cheek or not…

  3. Cllr Clive Williams says:

    I am extremely concerned at the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s sickness record. As Cabinet Member for Human Resources over 8 years ago I instigated weekly meetings with council managers regarding the council staff under their control .
    I would receive a long list of staff absences from managers but because of data protection regulations the individual members of staff were identified only by initials and their names were not disclosed, On some occasions however , not even managers themselves would know who the absent personnel were.
    Even then – eight years ago – the reason given for sickness was very often “stress” .

    I was always told that if you did not understand a problem you could not fix it so I would ask what “stress” was involved.
    I was told one member of staff who was on sick leave through “stress” did not like the person they worked with
    On another occasion I was told a staff member was absent with “stress” because he/ she did not like meeting the public.

    On various occasions “stress” meant that in reality a member of staff was at home looking after a sick relative or child, which was a factor outside management control, but in 70% of cases which were in management control, the stress issue was not being addressed.
    It is so easy to put “stress” down as a reason for sick leave. If a staff member is on long term sick, it puts the pressure on other staff to cover those duties. It also creates a culture of staff wondering how colleagues “get away with it”. I am sorry to think that residents are paying for this controllable issue .

    • whatsoccurin says:

      Having retired years ago from social care, the issues were the same then-some workers are unable to cope with the workload and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of how to manipulate the “sickness policy” alleging “stress” at every opportunity inferring “bullying if any attempt is made to address the problem. Of Course in effect all they are doing is passing work on to their colleagues. I have seen a number of former colleagues summoned before regulatory bodies-these are not the “sick leave” brigade, they are diligent staff who have taken on work in addition to their usual duties and they have made a mistake or an issue has arisen just because they have taken on too much work. Senior Management will never a ddress this because they do not really care-it is only public money after all!.

    • ColinD says:

      This is public sector culture i’m afraid Cllr Williams. I remember being told many moons ago by a friend who worked for a local authority that when discussing leave etc, that they had 6 weeks annual leave and then a further 2 weeks sick leave entitlement. Entitlement. Most council staff see it as a bolt on to their annual leave. So until the culture is snubbed out nothing with change. In addition, stress, if not genuine is a fairly bog standard excuse to use, there are no obvious physical symptoms, a GP will gladly sign you off for a week, and most managers are completely incapable of dealing with it, the term “run for the hills” springs to mind. Not to labour my point but sickness is a huge historic and cultural issue within the public sector and until initiatives such as half pay or nor being paid for the first 3 days are introduced which a) are common place in the private sector and b) would never ever get trade union approval, this will never ever change…

      • Ellabell says:

        Agreed. Unions haven’t agreed with other issues but the council carried on and made changes. Get on with changing the sickness policy and see how the percentage rises!

  4. Christopher David says:

    Well Colin D moral high ground eh! Mental illness is a very serious matter but I wouldn’t term normal every day stress an illness. I would never mock real mental illness. Skiving is pretty serious too and you cannot be naïve enough to not think that some people maybe pulling a fast one now and again, and again. Stress and bad backs, easy, I’ve seen it and so has anyone that’s worked for a living or faced genuine major stress. Its funny isn’t it that someone running a small business or dong a key job has so much less time off sick that some “soft sectors”. Not PC enough for your high standards- sorry Me D tough. We need to start being a bit more honest with ourselves.

  5. Robert Jones says:

    Cllr Williams you seem to think this is a controllable issue yet when you were Cabinet Member for Human Resources you don’t seem to have controlled the issue at all.

  6. Christopher David says:

    Ahem Mr Jones- the Cllr Williams was never a cabinet member. Definition-in the UK, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries) the committee of senior ministers responsible for controlling government policy (dictionaries various). Its just more granding it up by the wanabees (Mr William’s I’m sure is not responsible for the title tattle). I do agree with his sentiments though. It should be controllable that’s for sure.

  7. Penileaks says:

    Well worth reading the previous responses to this VoG ‘stress’ problem at
    Nothing much changes it seems !

  8. ak says:

    Isn’t it strange that self employed people rarely have sickness absence

  9. Penileaks says:

    ,Not that strange.

    The self employed don’t earn anything if they go sick, but employed people usually do, particularly those in government funded employment, who seem far more prone to being sick than most others for some reason. I wonder why that is ?

    • whatsoccurin says:

      Think AK was being a bit tongue in cheek!-many private companies now have bonus schemes which include 100% attendance. I recall one colleague in Local Government who had her 30 days leave in weekly groups (6×5)- on the Monday after the holiday she would ring in to say she had jet lag/flu (cold) etc and could not work but then would roll in on Thursday morning-no need for doctors certificate and at a stroke she was able to increase her Annual leave from 30 to 48 days and also made sure that managers would be reluctant to pass work to her as they knew it would have to be re-allocated.

  10. The 2025 PDN story rightly tells us that in 2015 an average of 11.0 Working Days (over 2 weeks in my language) were lost by EVERY employee in the Vale, and that over £40,000 was being spent on Staff Training in an attempt to improve Attendance levels. Back in early 2012 every employee had to have a “Back to Work” interview with their Line Manager on return to work, and the number of lost days started to decline a result. I believe that the Labour Group in May 2012 suspended that policy with the outcome that we now see. Not good for the taxpayer, the Vale Council or indeed the individual with the huge costs involved both then and now, especially when they (Labour) talk of re-starting Management Training for a further £40K of our money.

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