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Stress rises in council staff

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Stress rises in council staff

THE number of Dumfries and Galloway Council employees off work with stress rose by 30 per cent last year.

There were 127 members of staff absent due to work-related stress and 146 instances recorded in total.

The previous year – at the height of the pandemic – 97 employees were recorded as being off due to stress, with 104 instances recorded.
The figures have been laid bare in a report produced for the council’s audit, risk and scrutiny committee, which takes place this Thursday.
The council report states: “A new workplace stress process was developed and launched in late 2021 in consultation with the Joint Trade Unions. This new approach is designed to support early resolution and identification of the issues causing workplace stress.
“Early indications show that the new approach is proving useful in accelerating resolution of workplace stress concerns and provides a simpler framework, is easier to implement by managers, and is better received by staff.
“While there is an increase in 21/22 compared to 20/21, the benchmark and baseline through Covid isn’t reliable from a trend perspective. A good comparison is the 19/20 levels which shows accidents at work at the same level, and work-related stress is slightly lower than rates in 2019.”
In March this year, it was revealed that a “significant number” of social work services staff were off sick with work-related stress following the height of the pandemic.
Others were burnt-out following two years of trying to support vulnerable kids, families and individuals across the region.
Meanwhile, trade union leaders have also issued numerous warnings about the impact the pressures of working through the pandemic, and adjusting to new ways of working, had affected staff.
Andrew O’Halloran, secretary of the Dumfries and Galloway branch of teachers’ union EIS, highlighted how adapting to the Covid crisis in education has affected the mental health of teaching staff.
Six months ago, he said: “Covid-19 has taken its toll on the entire workforce and staff in schools are no exception.
“People are worn out.”
J’an Andrews, secretary for the Dumfries and Galloway branch of Unison, has voiced concerns that council workers are not being given enough support at work.
Last year, Unison experienced a big increase in members reaching out about job stresses and the impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

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