Eastbourne council lost more than 400 days of work to stress

STRESS among staff cost Eastbourne Borough Council the equivalent to 408 lost working days in the last 12 months.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed stress-related absences totalled 3,470 hours at the local authority as almost 28 employees took time off over the last year.

Those absences were attributed to general stress, depression, anxiety and bereavements although the council was keen to point out the stress issues were not necessarily attributable to conditions at work.

In fact, general sickness levels among town hall staff are the lowest in the region.

A survey of authorities across the county showed the Sussex-wide average for days off was 8.92 per person per year. The figure for staff at Eastbourne Borough Council was just 5.57 – the lowest in Sussex.

Chris Gape, spokesman for Eastbourne Borough Council, said, “Only in a tiny proportion – less than five per cent – of cases were there any contributing factors related to workplace stress.

“The council experiences significantly lower levels of absence due to stress and related reasons than neighbouring authorities and other public and private sector organisations. If any evidence of stress is found, action is taken swiftly to address it.

“Mental wellbeing is something the council actively promotes as part of providing a supportive workplace.

“Examples include corporate wellbeing days, stalls at internal events for healthy working and wellbeing and access to online resources and expert guidance.

“While the council is performing well in preventing staff absence, the authority is not complacent.

“There are a range of ways employees are supported, such as self-referral provisions to occupational health, management referrals to occupational health doctors and nurses, robust workplace risk assessment programmes, clear, fair and structured communication and return to work processes for those who have been unwell and external counselling support, as necessary.”

Health experts estimate that as many as one in four people suffer from some form or stress, anxiety or depression in the UK.

If you are suffering from stress or depression contact your GP or visit www.mind.org.uk for advice or call 0300 123 3393 or the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.