Derry City and Strabane District Council has been praised by the Local Government Auditor for taking decisive action to reduce staff sickness and absenteeism levels.
Pamela McCreedy, in her Local Government Auditor’s Report published this morning acknowledged DC&SDC’s absence rates had showed the greatest improvement since new baselines were set up in 2015/16.
“My predecessors and I have monitored and reported on sickness levels annually since 1990 and last year they peaked at their highest, with very little overall improvement in 2017/18,” reported Ms. McCreedy.
This was not the case in Derry and Strabane, however, which is the only Council to have identified absenteeism as a governance issue and taken steps to address it. Ms. McCreedy concluded that this approach has worked.
“Absence figures for DC&SDC show the greatest overall improvement since new baselines were established in 2015/16, with the formation of the new councils,” she declared.
She explaiend that back in 2015 when DC&SDC was formed it had posted the highest level of absenteeism of the 11 newly formed councils, averaging 17 days per employee in its first financial year.
“Recognising this as a significant governance issue which required action and disclosure, the Council highlighted its concerns within its annual governance statement.
“This has remained as a significant governance issue for the Council to date. I understand that the Council has implemented a range of measures to address absenteeism which include the introduction of a new Attendance Policy and training for all line managers and staff. Health and wellbeing is a strategic priority for the Council and this is promoted through the Councils ‘BeWell’ initiative,” explained Ms. McCreedy.
She said she understood the Council continued to work closely with trade unions to address absenteeism.
“The cumulative effect of these actions has delivered a reduction in overall levels to an average of 14 days per employee. This is below the overall council average of 14.9 days for 2017/18. I understand that the Council has achieved a further reduction in absenteeism for 2018/2019. While I still consider this level of absenteeism as high, this is an example of how one council has successfully taken steps to reduce absenteeism levels,” she stated.
Ms. McCreedy said no other council had identified high levels of absenteeism as a significant governance issue, despite overall absence levels continuing to be at an all-time high since 1990.