Council absenteeism rate is above target

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A confidential report on high absenteeism among Craigavon Borough Council staff – 68 per cent above the target rate – says that the main cause is “stress, depression and other mental conditions”.

Departments like leisure, environmental health and human resources come in for criticism in the report, prepared by distinguished occupational psychologist Dr Bridget Juniper from the GB firm of ‘Work and Well-being’, at a cost of around £6,000.

The report indicates that the council target for absenteeism is four per cent, but that the actual figure is 6.75 per cent. And it adds that staff are placed under pressure to attend work when unwell, and that other situations like inadequate training, physically exhausting work among the manual section exacerbate the situation.

Recent changes in the bins routes, allied to major overtime cuts have, the report states, added to the stress, plus the prospect of the loss of jobs in the creation of the new super council – joining Craigavon with Armagh and Banbridge – is worrying every department.

The higher the report goes up the scale – from manuals to management – the lower the absenteeism, and the report focuses on leisure, environmental health and human resources (HR) as problem areas.

It also calls for better training of staff, and a reduction in the workload of some of the managers.

But some councillors feel that the management-staff ratios in the council are too high.

There are around 80 managers within a staff of 560, and this is well above the private sector.

Councillors are also worried about the growing grievance culture in the Civic Centre. It is known that several grievances are in the pipeline – some for a long time.

The Juniper report was presented recently at the council’s policy and resources, the ‘MAIL’ understands, but some councillors we contacted are unaware of its existence.

And with RPA on the horizon, the report has lost its impact. Elections to the new council are in May and it will be fully functional a year later.

One Civic Centre insider said, “The report puts its finger on the problems, but it’s a bit late in the day to change a culture in the Civic Centre.

“I doubt it will make any difference with RPA so imminent.”