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Newry Council clocks up almost 20,000 sick days in a year after ‘concerning’ rise

An employment 'risk review' is now planned after after an increase of approximately 2,000 on the previous year

An employment risk review is to be launched at a Northern Ireland council with a “concerning” rise of sickness levels at almost 20,000 days lost in the last financial year.

A report presented to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) last week has shown an increase from 17,785 to 19,462 days lost to illness by local authority employees in a rolling 12 month period.

A tender for a new occupation health service at the council has closed as the local authority says it is taking measures to improve its sickness statistics.

NMDDC deputy chairperson, Gareth Sharvin raising his concerns, said: “Obviously sickness absence in this report is slightly concerning given quite a significant increase over the period of the 12 months that are listed.

“Have we done a deep dive on why there is such levels?

“Are there themes coming up that we need to plan as a council to address ?

“In my own work we do pulse surveys, every three months to get feedback from staff members saying, ‘how are things?’ And what could we do better?

“Is this a risk on the audit committee? Are we tracking sickness absence as a risk to the council? And how is that being tracked?

A council officer, responded: “We do track trends and we know why people are off.

“Sick absence is on the corporate risk register; failure to manage sickness absence results in delays and inability to deliver council services.

“We are reviewing and looking to see if we can do things in a different way and try to improve the situation.”

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