Rise in Sick Leave at Welsh Government after Cuts to Staff; FEARS PUBLIC SECTOR NOW 'TOO LEAN AND TOO MEAN'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 4, 2012 | Go to article overview

Rise in Sick Leave at Welsh Government after Cuts to Staff; FEARS PUBLIC SECTOR NOW 'TOO LEAN AND TOO MEAN'


Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON

THE number of long-term sick leave absences in the Welsh Government has jumped despite a major reduction in the number of staff, according to new figures.

Taxpayer campaigners last night called for urgent action to address the issue. Elsewhere, fears were raised that a smaller number of staff is struggling to cope with increasing responsibilities. One leading management expert warned the public sector had become "too lean and too mean".

In 2011-12 there were 152 absences of 90 days-plus among staff in the Welsh Government, up from 130 in 2009-10.

This is despite a fall in the number of employees from 6,456 in December 2009 to 5,386 by the same month last year.

The rise in the sick rate has fuelled concerns that staff are being over-worked at a time of shrinking budgets and stretched resources.

As well as a rise in the 90 days-plus rate, there has also been a slight increase in the number of staff taking sick leave for 28 days-plus - up from 423 in 2009-10 to 425 in 2011-12.

Cary Cooper, Distinguished Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University management School, said the figures were a sign that stress and anxiety are a major problem in the public sector.

He criticised poor management and said people were working long hours for fear of being made redundant, arguing that job losses meant remaining staff were unable to cope with their new responsibilities.

He said: "The problem we have in the public sector is there are too few people doing too much. It's too lean and too mean."

Prof Cooper, who is president of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, said people were suffering greater job insecurity and financial worries and were now reluctant to take days off for conditions such as the flu. He argued this made it more likely they would be succumb to serious stress and anxiety and require extended periods off work.

The figures come at a time when there are fears of further redundancies in the public sector. Last November, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast there would be 710,000 public sector job losses by 2017 - 310,000 more than previously estimated.

Describing the impact on staff of the job insecurity, Prof Cooper said: "They are coming in earlier and staying later to show commitment. …

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