Nearly 10,000 Council Staff in England on Extended Sick Leave, Lib Dems Reveal

The number of council staff on extended sick leave in England has risen by 18% since 2019, with Birmingham City Council being hit the hardest. The Liberal Democrats urge the government to address NHS waiting lists to help workers return to their jobs.

author-image
Salman Akhtar
Updated On
New Update
Nearly 10,000 Council Staff in England on Extended Sick Leave, Lib Dems Reveal

Nearly 10,000 Council Staff in England on Extended Sick Leave, Lib Dems Reveal

The number of council staff in England on extended sick leave has risen by 18% since 2019, with almost 10,000 workers currently off work, according to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats. The data, gathered through Freedom of Information requests to councils, shows that 58% of the responding local authorities have seen an increase in long-term sickness absences compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Birmingham City Council has been hit the hardest, with 561 staff members on extended sick leave, up from 390 in 2019. The Liberal Democrats are urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to take action by reducing NHS waiting lists, arguing that people will be able to return to work faster if they can access the care they need.

The government has outlined plans to tackle what it calls a 'sick note culture', including making it harder for people to obtain sick notes from their GPs. However, these proposals have faced criticism from the opposition and charities, with Labour and the charity Scope describing the measures as an 'assault on disabled people'.

Why this matters: The rising number of council staff on extended sick leave highlights the ongoing challenges faced by local authorities in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing this issue is critical for maintaining the quality of local services and ensuring the well-being of council employees.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper has accused the government of neglecting the NHS, stating, "The Conservative government's failure to get NHS waiting lists under control is having a serious knock-on effect on local councils' ability to deliver vital services." The party argues that the government's proposed reforms to tackle long-term sickness absences will only make life harder for those struggling with poor health, particularly individuals suffering from anxiety and depression who may face the threat of losing their benefits.

Key Takeaways

  • Council staff on extended sick leave in England up 18% since 2019.
  • Birmingham City Council hit hardest with 561 staff on extended sick leave.
  • Govt plans to make it harder to obtain sick notes face criticism as 'assault on disabled'.
  • Lib Dems urge PM to reduce NHS waiting lists to help staff return to work.
  • Rising sick leave strains local services, highlighting post-pandemic challenges.