North Lanarkshire Council staff took more time off sick during what bosses admit was a ‘particularly poor’ year for absence.
Latest figures show the council slid down the absence table for Scottish local authorities, although the signs are that the situation is now improving.
An Audit Scotland report reveals that North Lanarkshire staff were off sick for an average of 11.3 days in 2012-13. The Scottish average was 10.9.
North Lanarkshire’s figure in 2011-12 was 10.3 days and in the league table the council fell from joint 16th to joint 21st out of 32 councils.
Teachers are listed separately and North Lanarkshire was a lowly joint 28th in the table. Its teachers took off an average of 8.2 days, significantly above the Scottish average of 6.6 days off.
South Lanarkshire was joint 10th in the general table with 10.4 days off and 27th in the teachers’ rankings with an average of 7.8.
Iris Wylie, North Lanarkshire’s head of human resources, admitted the figures were ‘disappointing’. She added: “The council’s sickness absence performance during 2012/13 was particularly poor, with 12 consecutive months where the days lost figure was worse than the same month of the previous year.
“An exercise was carried out in October last year to determine whether neighbouring local authorities were experiencing a similar deterioation. Of those who responded all reported a rise in absence levels with no definitive explanation for it.
“This is borne out by the league tables as only eight of the 32 Scottish councils reported an improved position.”
Things are looking up in 2013, however, and Ms Wylie said there have been eight months in a row with sickness absence levels lower than the same month last year.
She went on: “The year to date position recorded for September is the lowest achieved for that period since the council began reporting sickness absence in full time equivalent days in 2010/11.
“It’s hoped this improvement will be reflected in the Audit Scotland league table for 2013/14.”