Concern as Dundee council staff sick rates rise

Helen Meldrum
Helen Meldrum

The number of sick days taken by council workers in Dundee is rising year-on-year — with stress among the biggest reasons for absence.

A total of 63,210 employee days were lost by Dundee City Council between September last year and this year.

The figure has risen each year since at least 2011. Nearly a quarter of the lost days were as a result of anxiety, stress and depression among workers.

Helen Meldrum, organiser of the Dundee branch of the GMB union — which represents some council staff — said one of the main causes of sick leave was a lack of support for workers.

She added: “I also think they haven’t been taken seriously when they’ve admitted to being stressed — it’s a big concern that they are not being listened to.

“There have been so many staff cutbacks. Our members have expressed significant anxiety over it and what the next day is going to bring.”

Meanwhile, a Unite spokesman said the economic crisis was being used as an excuse to slash public services. He said the number of council employees had dropped significantly in the past decade, to 6,200.

“The effect in Dundee has been stark”, he said.

“These aren’t just numbers. That’s a loss of 1,200 dedicated staff who worked hard to deliver vital public services.

“Our members still at the council are having to work harder and harder, with fewer and fewer resources. And, all the time, they have the threat of potential redundancy hanging over the heads. It is incredibly demoralising and stressful.

“We can’t go on like this. We urge the Scottish Government to use its new tax raising powers to avoid, protect and defend our shared public services.”

A council spokesman said: “The council monitors and reports absence information to the management team and trade unions on a monthly basis.

“We are working proactively on a health and wellbeing approach collaboratively with the trade unions as part of the ‘Our People Strategy’ and service areas are now all engaged with ‘Healthy Working Lives’. Our occupational health provider is assisting with a greater emphasis on early intervention supports for staff experiencing difficulties.

“There are many differing reasons for absence due to anxiety, stress and depression, with the majority not linked directly to the workplace.”