Council makes healthy saving on reduced sick leave

Shetland Islands Council has saved over £300,000 on its sick leave bill following a 10 per cent improvement in work attendance in the 12 months till July.

The improvement reflects changes made to boost attendance at work and has not involved hounding people off sick leave, the audit and standards committee heard last week. Instead, improvements to absence rates were attributed to re-organisation undertaken last September.

The committee heard that short-term sickness absence followed a “very, very cyclical pattern”, but had been subject to a marked improvement since the previous year, with only January bucking the trend that has seen up to a 25 per cent reduction in sick days in April, May and June, compared with 2011/12.

January’s increase in absenteeism was attributed to the norovirus outbreak, which hit care staff in particular. The committee also considered the health board policy of encouraging staff who had been in contact with infected patients to take a 48-hour break, which was not recorded as sickness.

SIC Councillor Allison Duncan pic 2
Allison Duncan – “Good news story”

Committee chairman Allison Duncan said that it was “a good news story” and that he was “very glad to see the result”. He added: “I do not want to see any sickness in the SIC or any other council.”

The committee heard that sick leave had been costing the council £3 million per year. Absence rates followed the same pattern every year and were best in summer, before climbing throughout the winter and peaking in February.

Performance and improvement advisor Jim MacLeod, who presented a report on sickness levels to the committee, said that promoting attendance at work had been a priority for managers and that the council “now had a very good” attendance policy.

“This is not about punishing sickness but promoting attendance,” he added. “Those people unable to attend work will not be affected by the new policy and procedure.”

However it was proving more difficult to make inroads into rates of long-term sickness.

Executive manager of performance and improvement John Smith said that there were in “the low teens” of long-term sick council employees and that was at “the limit of statistical expectation” from a 4,000-strong workforce.

Councillor Jonathan Wills hailed the figures as “a great improvement” and said that the annual cost of sickness amounted to what the council was looking to save on its educational budget.

The committee resolved that further reports on sickness should in future go before the executive committee, audit and standards having done its job on the issue.


Add Your Comment
  • robert sandison

    • November 12th, 2013 19:21

    As the workforce has been reduced by more than 10% this should come as no surprise.

  • robert sandison

    • November 12th, 2013 19:32

    Councilor Duncan said quote ”I do not want to see any sickness in the SIC or any other council” how does he propose to achieve this?

  • ian tinkler

    • November 12th, 2013 22:16

    “The committee also considered the health board policy of encouraging staff that had been in contact with infected patients to take a 48-hour break, which was not recorded as sickness”. Please give me strength. I my job, myself and staff would never get a day’s work done under this protocol. Nor would many hospital staff or any medical practitioners and precious few school teachers. It is an utterly stupid policy, very few in any transmissible diseases are contagious in the first 48 hours after contact. No wonder we cannot afford to keep our schools open, for goodness sake get real. This is policy is a total disgrace, get your people working, we simply cannot afford this idiocy.

  • Sandy McDonaldd

    • November 13th, 2013 8:03

    I am sure that in every SIC office and work place most of the the staff roll their eyes when the same old names are off work AGAIN! Having a sniffle is not an excuse to bunk off work. Working away at sea you are expected to “turn-to” if you are feeling rough, it takes broken bones to excuse you from duty (and even then – back in the day – I have seen guys put in a full days work).

    Fair enough – if your child is ill and off school and you can’t organise a baby sitter of course you can’t leave them alone. I wonder how many sick-days account for this?

  • Robert Sandison

    • November 13th, 2013 17:16

    What are the SIC going to do with the £300,000 they have ”saved”.


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.