Care home workers are much more likely to be absent from work
than central or strategic staff in social services departments, and
women record higher absence levels than men, according to the
findings of a survey into sickness absence levels,
writes Jonathan Pearce.
The survey of 106 English and Welsh local authorities by the
Employers’ Organisation for Local Government finds social
services departments recorded an annual average of 15 days of
sickness absence per employee.
Women were off sick for 16 days per year compared to 12 for men,
while those in manual occupations reported 19 days’ sickness
compared to 14 for non-manual workers.
Within occupational groups, staff in community homes and homes
for older people recorded the highest levels of absence at 19 and
17 days, respectively, while central and strategic staff recorded
the lowest levels at 9 days per year.
Compared to the previous year, there is a marginal increase on
sickness levels, says the report, but social services departments
recorded higher absence levels for 1999/00 than local government as
a whole – 15 days per employee compared to 9.6.
“There are a number of plausible reasons why sickness absence
rates are higher in social services departments than in other areas
of work,” says the survey.
It highlights the pressurised nature of the work, with stress
being the main reason for sickness – about one-fifth of total
absence. It has been argued the Best Value regime “creates a
climate which some staff find stressful”, adds the report, although
as Best Value matures, the climate may change.
The higher rate of sickness among women is explained by higher
rates across the general economy, reinforced by a predominately
female social services workforce.
The slight rise in absence rates as a whole is “not unexpected”
in a year of widely reported staff shortages, concludes the survey:
“Staff shortages put strain on existing employees whose workload
may increase. Even where temporary staff are found, existing
employees may be involved with training and offering additional
support. Consequently, employees are susceptible to higher levels
of stress and illness.”
- Social Services Sickness Absence Survey 1999/00;