Council staff sickness

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    Council Watcher

    There have been some really alarming figures published this week about the sickness levels in the Council and the vast numbers that are mental health related.

    The HR officer referenced bereavement and family circumstances – this would reflect across all working environments but it does have the same levels in other businesses. It is, therefore, necessary to look closer at what goes on in the Council to get to this point.

    There is no reference in the report about how many staff on the sick may have been under investigation, disciplinaries etc and the staff member opted for sickness.

    It also does not reference how many staff go on the sick because they feel they are being bullied- this issue has come up time and time again and denied yet the Council has settlement arrangements with a number of staff. A basic question for an FOI is how much compensation has been paid to Council employees for work-related issues.

    As the overall staff numbers are cut but the workload is not reduced those left are having to do a considerable higher level- the expectations are growing.

    There does not appear to be any reference in the report to drink or drug-related sickness- national statistics show that at least 1:4 employees across all business sectors on average have a drink related problem. However is it work pressure that is causing employees to turn to drink as an escape.

    The report is clearly startling and sympathy to all this staff affected but until the working environment and conditions are changed the figures are only going to go in one direction – upwards.



    I agree Council Watcher, particularly with your point on bullying.

    I worked for WCBC for 10 years, leaving just over 3.5 years ago. Unfortunately my last four years there became a nightmare when my wonderful boss retired and another member of staff was promoted to manager. She was a bully, and staff turnover soon rocketed, but HR seemed unconcerned. HR were completely uninterested in helping me, despite colleagues being willing to witness to her atrocious behaviour towards me and other colleagues, many of whom were also suffering. It’s along story, but eventually I resigned (after 2 bouts of Clinical Depression my GP recommended that I get out ASAP) and took the council to a Tribunal claiming Constructive Dismissal.

    I won, with the Judge finding them guilty of Constructive, Wrongful and Unfair dismissal as well as Breach of Contract (it’s called ‘throwing the book’ I think!). In his written judgement he stated his concerns that the Council’s HR dept had repeatedly ignored my concerns and failed to investigate properly what was happening, and added his opinion that that my former manager had ‘regrettably’ (and repeatedly) tried to mislead the Tribunal whilst on oath. In the section of the written Judgement in which blame is proportioned to assist with the calculation of ‘compensation’ he said WCBC were 100% to blame, and me 0%, something my Barrister and solicitor say is incredibly rare.

    However, despite this, the manager was allowed to remain in her post, and according to former colleagues, she continued intimidating and bullying other staff. I know of someone who works for WCBC in another dept who is having issues with a bullying manager at the moment, but yet again the HR dept are unwilling to help.

    Unless WCBC HR get it into their heads (and working practices!) that managers can be bullies and may well be in the wrong and their ‘minions’ in the right, and take such issues as disproportionately high staff turnover in a department seriously enough to find out why it’s happening, they will continue to have numerous staff signed off with stress and depression, and often for very good reason.
    Such a waste of money paying staff when they’re off instead of getting to the roots of the reasons they’re ill and putting things right, not to mention the fact that they are tacitly approving of bullying!



    Woodbine – glad you have had the courage to tell your story as it is so similar to my situation although I was worn down so much I could not face a Tribunal. I was effectively given a settlement (not very large) in the end for me to go. The situation was intolerable with no one at the top wanting to listen- they all need hearing aids.

    I have known many people over the past ten years who have gone your way or mine to get out from the Council due to the appaling way that they mismanage people with no value for the work you do.

    The Council Members should re-look at the report on sickness more and as they have a Duty of Care for all employees should look at the issues again.

    They should ask –
    1. How many staff have been paid off
    2. How much has been spent on defending Tribunals
    3. How much have they had to pay out in compensation
    4. How many cases of bullying or harassment are reported
    5. How many cases do the Union deal with and make compromise agreements to save progressing to Tribunals

    All of this information would give a truer picture of what is happening in the workforce.
    All that this report has highlighted is that certain officers have succeeded in pulling the wool over Council Members eyes rather than giving a full and honest picture of the facts and costs.



    In a somewhat shocking turn of events, I actually agree with something Clr Pritchard has said. He’s hit the nail on the head with this one.

    Cllr Mark Pritchard said that he uncertainty surrounding job security for public sector workers was adding to the pressure.

    He said: “I’m surprised it isn’t a lot higher than this because in the last 10 years, when you look at austerity we as a council have had to cut £52m.

    “We’re continually cutting and reshaping, staff are worried and rightly so.

    In order to judge how to improve things you’d have to compare other councils hit with similar cut levels and see how they were faring, if they were performing better/worse? What lessons are there to take.

    This is going to be rife amongst the public sector – NHS, Social Services, Civil Servants etc… all being asked to do more for less.

    I predict that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.



    I’d love to see what info WCBC provided if that request was sent to them!I suspect that issues with bullying and workplace stress caused by cuts resulting in one person having to do a job formerly done by 2-3 account for more WCBC staff stress than that caused by job insecurity – or at least, just as much.

    As a rough idea, my solicitor estimated that my case alone cost them at least £45 000, composed of my ‘remedy’payment, barrister’s fees, solicitors’ time, lost hours of work for two managers, one solicitor and an HR officer preparing for and attending a two-day tribunal, and the tribunal fees they had to refund to me because they lost. That’s before you add in my wages during the 6 months or so of sick-leave I had off in total over the 4 years or so I endured the bullying!

    (Incidentally, my compensation was pitifully small because it was classed as ‘just’ bullying, not harassment under the Equalities Act – funny how four years of intensive bullying for no discernible reason is considered far less serious than a single occurrence of discrimination by this government when surely they are equally heinous and should be stopped! WCBC will have had to make far higher payments if they have lost any cases involving discrimination. Whether any of this is covered by insurance of some kind I don’t know.)



    Heres a view to provoke, if there was no pay while off sick as was once upon a time not that long ago, and I say this from personal experience, what would the numbers of people off sick look like ?

    The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.



    I agree, I worked for WCBC for 25 years and had an excellent sick record ( never off unless hospital admission) But I am aware that there were colleagues that were off for the slightest reason, knowing that they were on full pay, { this is NOT the same as those with genuine reasons of sickness} all i’m saying is if they weren’t going to be paid would they have still been off?


    Council Watcher

    Gayn – I’m sure over 25 years you must have witnessed a big change in the relationship between managers and staff – moving from friendly colleagues to ‘us and them’. Managers are more prone now to self-preservation of their own position even if it means impacting on the working environment.

    What is so noticeable everytime bullying and working practices comes up there is never any comments coming from the Unions — why have they now got an attitude of keeping everything under wraps.



    I agree, I worked for WCBC for 25 years and had an excellent sick record ( never off unless hospital admission) But I am aware that there were colleagues that were off for the slightest reason, knowing that they were on full pay, { this is NOT the same as those with genuine reasons of sickness} all i’m saying is if they weren’t going to be paid would they have still been off?

    Another controversial view/experience :

    When getting made redundant a few years ago (not that many) I decided that I was not going to work my last few weeks, (there was a reason) but to get my full redundancy I needed to be on the sick, so I went to the quacks and told him I was feeling depressed about getting made redundant etc. (the truth was I was over the moon about it !)

    I was very nervous about going to the doctors and telling my employers, but I need’t have been because I could not believe how easy it was to con them and how supportive the doctor and the company were, now I know that is a good thing for someone genuinely depressed etc. but how many go down this line on a regular basis just to get a few weeks/months off work ?

    The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.



    I am a frustrated employee and find myself in a very stressful situation with Wrexham Council at present. HR and my manager decided that as I couldn’t carry out my full duties, I HAD to go on sick leave, despite my health problem/impairment being covered under the Equality Act 2010. I told them I wanted to work but their response was there was nothing they could find me! Ridiculous, considering my previous and varied jobs, not forgetting the fact that the Council is a large organisation. I even offered to reduce my hours. I am now stuck at home, waiting for meetings to take place and not knowing where or when all of this is going to end, whilst being paid. My sick record will be sky-high which is bound to go against me when I apply for alternative work. I’m having sleepless nights due to the uncertainty of my future and the unfairness of it all. Another tribunal case?

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