‘Cut sickies’ to meet efficiency targets

Social services departments could come under greater pressure to
cut sickness absence rates if a proposed performance indicator to
measure efficiency savings is given the go ahead.

Sickness absence rates is one of 20 draft indicators proposed to
help councils meet the 2.5 per cent efficiency savings target set
in the government’s July spending review.

Recent surveys by the Employers’ Organisation showed that sickness
rates in social services departments were 16.1 days an employee a
year in 2002, compared with a council-wide average of 10.7

Departments have tried initiatives to bring sickness levels down,
ranging from refusing to pay for the first three days sick leave to
making staff talk to a nurse when phoning in sick.

Tony Hunter, Association of Director of Social Services president
and social services director at Liverpool Council, said: “We all
recognise that for front-line staff work can be very pressured and
lonely and, for some of our workforce, lifting and handling can be
a cause.

“But equally there is no doubt that sickness levels in social
services are too high. The challenge for us is working out what
levels of sickness are able to be tackled and what is inherent to
the job.”

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