Council worker stress leave increases by 18% in just two years

Freedom of Information requests made by the Welsh Conservatives have revealed that the number of local government staff across Wales who took stress-related leave last year is up by 1,418 (18%) on the last two years.

In 2018/19, 9,289 local authority workers had to take time off because of stress compared to 8,350 in in 2017/18, and 7,871 the year before. Those are year-on-year increases of 939 (11.9%) and 479 (6.1%).

Cardiff and Caerphilly councils saw the highest number take such leave last year – 1,170 and 807 respectively. The lowest numbers were recorded by Anglesey (45) and Ceredigion (132).

Compared to two years ago, the biggest increase came in Merthyr Tydfil where more than tripled from 105 to 318. Despite its relatively low number, Ceredigion did see it increase by 69.5%.

The third highest increase was in Swansea (49.6%), followed closely by Cardiff (47%). Meanwhile, Anglesey, Blaenau Gwent, Conwy, and Monmouthshire all recorded an improvement on 2016/17.

The same request was tabled to Welsh Government which disclosed that 366 of their full-time equivalent staff were absent due to mental health reasons, which included stress. This was up by 22% from 300 in 2016/17. The number was 302 the next year.

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Local Government Minister Mark Isherwood AM, said:

“Whereas stress and burnout are key causes of high staff absenteeism and the Welsh Labour Government’s funding formula badly needs revising, these figures do not show a direct correlation between levels of absenteeism and our best and worst funded councils.

“However, low morale and lack of motivation are primary causes of high absenteeism and these occur when staff feel undervalued and underappreciated. We therefore need to see new ways of working embraced and motivational performance management embedded, which means unlocking the strengths and assets in workforces and communities.”

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Angela Burns AM, added:

“This trend is really concerning: not only are hundreds increasingly and consistently suffering from something that really destabilises mental health, but that will, in turn, have consequences for the quality of public services.

“We’ve also seen this trend in the health service where ambulance staff have higher sickness absence than any other employee group.

“The Welsh Labour Government – who themselves have seen increasing stress leave levels – must now accept that it is their responsibility to take action to arrest this pattern across Wales.”