DOUBLE the number of working days were lost to mental health problems by Ribble Valley Council employees last year.

Stress, anxiety and depression are the main issues, with 519 working days lost in 2018/19 due to work and home related stress compared to 275 lost working days in 2017/18.

Meanwhile, musculoskeletal injuries – bad backs, muscle damage and sprains – led to the loss of 351 working days in 2018/19, compared to 931 in 2017/18.

The average number of days lost per employee has increased from 9.35 days in 2017/18 to 10.15 days in 2018/19.

This compares with the target for 2018/19 of eight days per employee.

Long term absences accounted for 53 per cent of the total days lost and the cost of absence increased from £231,376 in 2017/18 to £254,033 in 2018/19.

In a report to go before the council's personnel committee, HR officer Julie Smith said: "Analysis of the 2018/19 absence figures shows the equivalent of 1,977 working days being lost between April 2018 and March 2019.

"This represents an increase of 132 days compared to last year (1,845 days).

"The cost of sickness absence for 2018/19 is £254,033 – an increase of £22,657 from last year.

"This calculation is based on an average of salaries across the authority.

"While this still represents a considerable cost we endeavour to build on our proactive management of sickness absence.

"A review of our sickness absence policy has been undertaken by the HR section and the impact of the changes in the draft policy are being reviewed.

"We continue to promote healthy lifestyles and wellbeing via regular items in Backchat, the staff newsletter, poster campaigns and other initiatives delivered by our health and fitness team.

"There is a keen interest in lunchtime walks which started last year.

"In addition, our Health and Safety Officer provides refresher training on subjects such as manual handling where appropriate, but particularly with staff returning from back and musculoskeletal injury."