HR News has learned that following a recent report showing a vast increase in the numbers of emergency first responders off sick due to stress, statistics released under a freedom of information request now shows a similar trend in the West Mercia Police. Absences from work due to stress, depression and other mental illnesses have more than doubled since 2010, leaving remaining colleagues claiming they are even more overworked following a series of austerity cuts.
Worrying, the figures also show that sickness absence due to all causes has increased by 60 per cent over the past five years, from 25,000 days in 2010 up to nearly 40,000 days in 2014.
A spokesman for the force said: “West Mercia Police values its workforce and takes the well-being of its officers and staff very seriously.
“We recognise that these statistics show a rise in sickness absence, particularly for anxiety, stress and depression, but this trend is also reflected in other forces across the country. A number of measures are already in place in West Mercia to support the welfare of those who provide a vital service, protecting the public from harm, in what can be difficult and challenging circumstances.”
“These include an attendance management group which monitors sickness absence across the force and works with line managers to address issues and identify opportunities for support. A new action plan has been implemented in the past year and additional training has recently become available for line managers to help them support their staff. This is part of a range of measures being implemented across Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police.”
Russ Yeomans, chairman-elect of the West Mercia Police Federation stressed that whilst the figures were high, there is a need for further research, saying:
“It is difficult to pinpoint precise reasons for the rise in stress-related absences unless further research is carried out. We do know however that there has been quite a large increase which is a worrying trend. If the trend continues it is going to have an impact upon the service we can give to the public.
“The force is aware of this and will do everything it can to assist officers and staff to get better and get back to work as quickly as possible.”
Adrian Lewis, Commercial Director of Activ Absence, the UK’s leading absence management software provider, said:
“This is the second HR News report within a matter of a month showing a drastic increase in sickness for the emergency sector. We are already working with some NHS divisions and have helped them reduce their sickness levels, even in challenging situations, sickness in these sectors is only going to make the pressure on this stretched, hardworking team of people worse.”