Councillors welcome fall in staff absence figures

NEWTOWNABBEY Borough Council has reported a welcome drop in staff absence.

At their January meeting, members of the local authority’s Policy and Governance Committee were presented with absenteeism figures for April 1 - September 30, 2012.

The figures show that there has been a decrease in the number of days lost due to absence by 376 days, compared to the same period in 2011. The reduction includes 193 days fewer in the long term absence figure and 183 days less for short term absence.

At the end of 2012, the Local Government Auditor’s latest report revealed that the council’s sickness absence rate was among the worst of all Northern Ireland’s 26 local authorities, with the average NBC employee taking just over 14 sick days during the 2010-11 financial year.

A number of initiatives have been put in place by the council in recent months aimed at reducing absenteeism. One such scheme, unveiled in September last year, is to offer rewards such as theatre tickets and gym memberships to employees who take no time off due to illness.

Committee members were informed that the council is currently promoting a number of health and wellbeing projects among employees and is also working to address absences relating to stress.

“There has been a decrease in absence and numerous initiatives remain under way which include referrals to monthly nurse-led clinics and physiotherapy and phased returns from long term absence.

“The prize draw for employees with 100 per cent attendance for the period April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012 has taken place and a letter from the Mayor issued to those with 100 per cent attendance,” the report stated.

Describing the latest figures as “very positive”, alderman John Blair congratulated council officers on the decrease in absenteeism.

That point was echoed by councillor Noreen McClelland, who said that the initiatives put in place by the council’s Human Resources Manager and her team over the past year “seem to be paying off”.