Data reveals work absence for mental health at council is double UK average

Islington Town Hall

Anxiety, depression and stress are now the most common reasons for sicknesses in the last five years for Islington Council - Credit: Ken Mears 

Islington Council staff had nearly 10,000 sick days due to poor mental health last year, new figures reveal.

Data obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws shows mental health conditions are responsible for the most time off had by the local authority's employees, accounting for 23.4 per cent of sick days in 2020.

The figure is around double the national average for both local authority employees and workers in all types of roles - in 2018 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found mental health accounted for 12.4pc of illness leave across all workplaces and the UK average for those in a public sector role missing work due to a mental health condition was 10.2pc.

Coronavirus was the second most frequent reason for Islington Council staff to take sickness leave in 2020, making up a fifth of the 39,356 total days lost.

This means anxiety, depression and stress are now the most common reasons for sicknesses in the last five years for Islington Council, with the figure fluctuating between 22 and 24pc.


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The statistics show the average number of days lost per employee in Islington Council was 8.4 in 2020, twice that of the national average for all workplaces last year.

That was announced to be 3.6 days per worker by the ONS this week - the lowest since records began in 1995.

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Islington Council has a range of support services in place for its employees, such as its confidential Employee Assistance Programme.

However, Jane Doolan, Islington branch secretary for the Unison trade union, told the Gazette she believes there is an "expectation for workers to be working 24/7” due to “pressures from the public”.

She said she had been telephoned by one frontline worker who had been inundated with phone calls at 8am.

Jane Doolan, branch secretary of Islington UNISON. Picture: Polly Hancock

Jane Doolan, branch secretary of Islington UNISON. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

The impact of “austerity on local councils has played a big part” in “piling more pressure” on staff to deliver, she added.

Sigal Avni, assistant director at Islington Mind, said she was "not surprised” by the findings and said “more research is needed” to investigate the cause.

Islington Council has been approached for comment.

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