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A COUNCILLOR has told senior Blaenau Gwent staff not to “beat themselves up” over poor sickness absence statistics.

Blaenau Gwent is at the bottom of the Welsh local authority ranking table when it comes to sickness absence amongst staff – although all other authorities are also showing a rising trend.

Head of organisational development Andrea Prosser told councillors that sickness absences had gone up in 2021/22 to 16.74 days lost per full time equivalent employee.

When taking absences due to Covid-19 out of the data, the figure dropped to 14.2 days.

This is up from the 2020/21 figure of 11.67 days, and 9.98 days without Covid per employee.

This means that the council has missed its 10-day target.

Ms Prosser said:

“When we compare with the all Wales data, which is yet to be formally published, Blaenau Gwent continues to be the highest in terms of sickness within our workforce.

“We are keeping an eye on a nearby authority where they have replaced their managing attendance policy to focus more on wellbeing and we’re keen to find out what impact that has for them.”

She added that this could be a way for Blaenau Gwent to improve.

Cllr George Humphreys said:

“Covid-19 has had a huge hit on everybody worldwide and unfortunately with this pandemic, there seem to be a lot of aftereffects.

“Long term Covid  is affecting people in different ways and illnesses, it’s quite alarming.

“Even though it doesn’t look good on our council, don’t beat yourselves up too much, unfortunately Covid hit us very hard.”

Cllr Ross Leadbeater said:

“I find the report quite shocking, it’s bad enough that we’re at the bottom of the league table but worse than that that we’ve not reached our own target for five years.

“I feel something drastic needs to be done to change this.”

Cllr Tommy Smith was enthusiastic about re-introducing a working group of councillors to look into the issue and help find solutions.

Chief officer for resources, Rhian Hayden said: “

It’s important for members to appreciate the context.

“While comparison with other authorities can be useful it doesn’t give you the true picture of the differences between Blaenau Gwent and other authorities.

“Blaenau Gwent does have a particularly high level of health issues within its community and the vast majority of our employees come from that community.

“It is possible that our statistics are reflecting the general health issues of the local authority area.”

Ms Hayden also said that the makeup of gender and age of the workforce should also be considered.

“It would be difficult for us to have a blanket catch all solution,” said Ms Hayden

The committee recommended that all councillors receive a briefing to understand the staff absenteeism data and will be told of how the wellbeing policy for the other council is working.

A report on the impact of working from home on council staff’s health and wellbeing will also be brought in front of the committee at a future date.

The report is set to be discussed at a meeting of the Cabinet next month.

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