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West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service: Mental health absences down by a third

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Stress-related absences among workers at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) have fallen significantly during the past year.

Figures in a human resources report published by the Fire Authority showed that the total number of days lost to mental health sickness fell by almost a third between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

WYFRS said they had started initiatives to make the authority a “welcoming and open place” to discuss mental health and that all employees had “round the clock” access to qualified counsellors.

An average of almost seven days a year per worker were taken off sick between March 2017 and February 2018, a slight increase on the year before. This related to all types of illness.

Muscle, joint and bone problems were the biggest cause of sickness during the past two years, followed by mental health issues and respiratory problems.

Chief employment services officer Ian Brandwood said: “There has been a very marginal increase in sickness absence at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. In the past 12 months sickness averaged 6.98 days per employee compared to 6.81 in the previous year.

“We have not identified any particular trend or reason for this small increase.

“Our absence rates are about average for a Fire Service and ineed the Chartered Institue of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey identified the public sector average as 8.5 days per employee. We are well below that in what is a physically demanding and risky job.

“We support our firefighters and our fire and rescue service employees through our occupational health and safety department and employee assistance programme which offers access to qualified counsellors round the clock.

“We also run particular initiatives to promote good mental health and to make the workplace a welcoming and open place when discussing this topic. We are pleased to report that stress-related absence has reduced over the last 12 months – 2124 days compared to 3118 in the 12 months previous.”

The key numbers

Number of employees at WYFRS – 1,334

Average number of sick days taken per worker 2016/17 – 6.81

Average number of sick days taken per worker 2017/18 – 6.98

Drop in stress-related absence from 2016/17 to 17/18 – 31.9 per cent

David Spereall , Local Democracy Reporting Service