Stressed out council staff absence fear

editorial image

MENTAL health issues are the largest cause of sickness absence among employees at North Lincolnshire Council, it has been revealed.

And council bosses have no drawn up an action in a bid to reduce staff absence by providing more support for workers.

A meeting of North Lincolnshire Council’s health scrutiny panel was told future incentives to equip more managers with mental health first aid skills will allow them to then be able to spot the warning signs of potential problems and involve the authority’s counselling service at an earlier stage.

The move is part of an over all campaign to improve employee health generally, as the council works towards the silver standard in the Healthy Workplace Awards Scheme.

However, continued cuts mean the work has to be achieved with ‘goodwill and very little money’, members were told by health improvement manager Steve Mercer.

Coun Trevor Barker, from Axholme North, has called for the effort to be led by a ‘champion’ in a bid to make it more effective.

The Healthy Workplace Awards assess a number of important areas, including workplace safety, mental wellbeing, musculo-skeletal disorders, smoking, alcohol and substance abuse, physical activity and healthy eating.

Mr Mercer told the meeting that the authority wanted to help employees feel healthy, fit and valued in the workplace. An action plan will be available soon, he said, and when all efforts coincide, the measures taken will make a difference, he added.

Panel chairman Coun Jean Bromby was pleased to hear action is to be taken.

She said: “Let’s do something positive and not have too much talking.”

Coun Barker picked up on a decision that employees wanting to give up smoking weren’t to be allowed to go to smoking cessation sessions during working hours, but would be asked to attend at lunchtimes or after work instead.

He said: “If they’re going out for ten minutes every hour for a cigarette, it would be better to let them go to the sessions during their working time.”

Mr Barker added that he hoped the action plan, when it was published, would help to push the priorities further.