BARNSLEY Council bosses have vowed to support staff who are experiencing poor mental health - after a shock report revealed the equivalent of more than 36 years of working days were lost last year due to employees’ related absences.

In the past year, the council has lost a total of 13,393 full-time working days due to mental and emotional wellbeing ill health.

That equates to more than 36 years of lost work.

They also lost almost a decade through staff absence due to musculoskeletal related ill health - meaning the council has lost almost half a century of work in just one year.

The information will be scrutinised by the council’s ruling cabinet members on Wednesday.

A report states: “As with accidents and incidents, it is accepted that the collation of work-related ill-health statistics can assist in improving health and safety within an organisation.

“We record the reported reasons for employee absences.

“Of the categories of absence reported it is considered that those concerning musculoskeletal illness and mental/emotional wellbeing issues are most likely to potentially be associated with some aspect of work - that is not to state that these illnesses are caused or indeed exacerbated by work but acknowledging that work may either directly or indirectly be associated with the illnesses, which indeed may be wholly attributable to factors outside work.

“However, regardless of the root cause the issue manifests itself at work and still leads to absence.”

The staff absences - mainly owing to mental health and Covid-19 infections - have cost Barnsley Council more than £5.5m in the last two years.

‘Through the roof’ mental health-related issues and Covid-19 were the top two main reasons which accounted for more than 25,000 missed days combined from 2020.

However, for mental health-related absences, counselling is offered by the council’s occupational health team, and 252 employees accessed this during 2021/22.

Coun Robin Franklin, cabinet spokesperson for core services, admitted that the figure was high - but that the council plan for absence and no services should be affected as a result.

He told the Chronicle: “Absence due to mental health issues is one of the main causes of absence for UK employers and it’s a trend we’re seeing in Barnsley.

“Over the last year, employee absence relating to mental health issues equates to 13,393 full-time equivalent days, up from 11,684 in 2021/22.

“We know this is a high number.

“At times, mental health challenges can impact an individual’s ability to work, and at Barnsley Council we want to create an open and supportive culture where our employees feel comfortable seeking help and support so that they can return to work quickly.

“We offer a range of support services, including counselling, advice and training, mental health first aiders, and a 24-hour, seven days a week free and confidential employee assistance programme for all and their immediate families.”