Question of sick leave at EDDC

Madam - I refer to the article (Sidmouth Herald 25 September Page 14) headlined Cost shock of sick note EDDC staff .

Madam - I refer to the article (Sidmouth Herald 25 September Page 14) headlined 'Cost shock of sick note EDDC staff'.

We take exception to some elements of the article which have rendered it inaccurate or misleading and therefore more sensational and damaging than is justified.

First, on a question of accuracy, the second paragraph refers to the 2008/09 sickness absence average as being an increase of 10.95 from the previous year. It is in fact an increase from 10.95 the previous year.

Second, the statement given to your reporter explaining the background to the figures was not used in full - indeed it was shortened to such an extent that important points of detail were left out. This leads to the reader (and the headline writer) gaining the wrong impression.

The statement we provided to you made it quite clear that a large proportion of the sickness absence at EDDC is medium-term or long-term. It would therefore be quite wrong for the reader to be given the impression that the statistic quoted is caused by large numbers of staff taking odd days of sick leave at will - which would indeed be a worrying trend.

It was therefore alarming for us - and no doubt your readers - to see a strapline above this story that proclaimed 'Council sickie day off tally'. Employees who are on medium to long-term sick leave are not 'throwing sickies'.

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The article also mentions a BBC Freedom of Information request - appearing to suggest that the information on EDDC sickness absence was in some way a well-kept secret that has had to be prised out of an unwilling council by a clever journalist. Sorry, but this is not true either. The information is in the public domain as the Council routinely publishes its sickness absence figures in reports.

Indeed such is the robustness of sickness absence monitoring at EDDC that the latest statistical trend was flagged up to Members some months ago and was discussed by the Service Delivery and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 24 September. The figures presented then are available online at:

For the record, the report shows that the average number of days lost for the first quarter of 2009/10 is 2.47 days per person. If we extract long-term and medium-term days lost from this figure, the average number of days lost would be 1 day. This shows that EDDC does not have a problem with short-term 'malingering' type absence - or 'sickies' to use your headline term.

I would be grateful if you would publish this letter in order to put the record straight.

I would end by giving your readers and our council tax payers an assurance that the issue of sickness absence at EDDC is being addressed and the trend is currently going in the right direction.

Councillor Andrew Moulding,

Portfolio Holder Resource