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Council workers hit by covid stress

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By Marc Mclean, Local Democracy Reporter
Council workers hit by covid stress

STRESS resulted in 1.5 per cent of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s workforce taking time off sick last year, it has been revealed.

The local authority recorded 104 work absences directly related to stress in 2020/21, which equated to 3235 days – and 23,090 working hours – lost.

Meanwhile, not a single person was put through the council’s training courses on managing personal stress, or stress management for managers, during that time.

This has prompted concerns from Katie Hagmann, Mid Galloway and Wigtown West Councillor, who spoke out about how the council is responding to the pressures being faced by its 6500-strong workforce.

The issue was discussed at the council’s audit, risk and scrutiny committee on Tuesday, where it was heard that health and safety training courses had been restricted due to covid.

Councillor Hagmann said: “I do appreciate that covid will have affected the delivery of training/courses, but in terms of the number of courses for managing personal stress and stress management for managers there were zero courses put on.

“Considering how stressful some of the situations have been over the past year, I’m just wondering how we’re planning to catch up on that?

“As a council, and as elected members, we are very aware of mental health and resilience, and how we look after our staff because it is a very challenging time.”

Sue White, the council’s lead health and safety advisor, responded: “All throughout covid, the health and wellbeing group have been doing supportive health and wellbeing campaigns, and there has been e-learning available.

“There’s also a new programme being delivered over the autumn for 300 managers to get trained, and we’re working on this through the occupational health provider.”

While concerns have been raised about the number of council staff being absent due to stress, this year’s figures are an improvement on 2019/20.

During that year, there were 147 stress-related work absences, which equated to 2.15 percent of the council workforce. The number of days lost was also considerably higher at 5413, and 35,478 hours lost.

In her report on the issue, Sue White wrote: “Detailed absence management information is reviewed on Barrachd (Council’s Absence Management system) and dedicated case management is in place to address short, medium and long-term absence cases and provide support for staff who are absent.”


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