Social services head sickness league table

Care home workers are much more likely to be absent from work
than central or strategic staff in social services departments.

Also, women record higher absence levels than men, according to
the findings of a survey into sickness absence levels published
this week.

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 nine days per year.

Compared to the previous year, there is a marginal increase in
sickness levels, says the report.

But social services departments recorded higher absence levels
for 1999-2000 than local government as a whole – 15 days per
employee compared to the council average of 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

It has been argued the Best Value regime “creates a climate that
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

“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,” it states.

Social Services Sickness Absence Survey 1999-2000,
available from

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