Newham council disputes �12m bill for sick absences

Newham Council has denied that absences among its staff have cost the taxpayer �12 million.

The figure was compiled by FirstCare which calculated it on the basis that council staff took more than 85,000 days in sickness absence. FirstCare compiled the figures following a Freedom of Information request to London councils.

A Newham Council spokesperson said: “We dispute these figures - �12m is not one we recognise. Our calculations put the costs at a third of this.

“We have robust processes in place to manage staff absence. These includes proper reporting mechanisms, revised absence management policies, management training and regular monitoring and action on all long and short term absence. This is aimed at reducing absence by getting people back to work as soon as possible.”

FirstCare found that sickness absences cost London councils more than �118 million last year, despite the number of absences falling to their lowest level in three years.

Figures obtained from 25 borough councils across London found that staff had taken a total of 805,247 days absence in 2010-11, compared to 875,155 in 2009-10 and 937,478 in 2008-9. However, FirstCare has estimated that even with the reduction of more than 100,000 days in absence over the last three years, the total cost of staff absence in 2010-11 was nearly �118 million (based on the average cost of sickness in the public sector being �146.26 per employee per day).