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Over the last five years overall sick days at Pembrokeshire County Council has reduced but the percentage of mental health absence has increased.

Responding to a call from local Assembly Member Paul Davies that more be done to support staff suffering stress at work within the local authority a council spokesman outlined well-being steps already taken.

A Welsh Conservative Freedom of Information request showed that there were 282 staff on stress sick leave in 2016/17 rising to 371 in 2018/19 and then to 384 this year.

Mr Davies called the trend “worrying” adding: “Pembrokeshire County Council must ensure that it doesn’t take staff well-being for granted and implements support programmes for its workforce to minimise the number of staff on stress-related leave.

“If this trend continues in the next few years, it could result in having some very serious consequences on the quality of our public services and the Council must ensure that doesn’t happen.”

The council said that it reports all mental health reasons in sickness type resulting in a broader response than just stress related leave.

“The trend in the Council over the past five years is that overall sickness has gone down by 1.2 per cent as a percentage of the overall workforce but, in that overall figure, the percentage of mental health absence has gone up from 4.3 per cent five years ago to 8.28 per cent last year,” a spokesman said.

A well-being initiative was launched in 2017 to encourage more openness about mental health and access to support, including a dedicated intranet service, with more than 90 workplace champions working to tackle mental health stigma.

It is also signed up to the Time to Change Wales initiative with managers and key HR staff trained in mental health awareness.

“While the higher numbers of employees declaring mental health maybe due to a more accepting culture, it would be accurate to say that we are dealing with higher levels of emotional health issues, whether that then leads to absence or not.

“It is also to be noted that while more employees are declaring mental health issues, they are having shorter periods off work. This could be to do with improved support for mental health in the workforce. We actively engage at early welfare stages to risk assess and introduce coping interventions,” added a council spokesman.

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