Harrow Council has vowed to improve its staff sickness levels, after figures showed that employees are taking an average of almost ten days off per year – more than three days above the public sector average.

Conservative opposition councillor Richard Almond described the situation as “atrocious”, while Cllr Adam Swersky, responsible for finance at Harrow Council, said he was “disappointed” by the figures.

The staff strategy report showed that staff, excluding the schools’ team, were, on average, off sick for the full-time equivalent of 9.7 days in the third quarter of 2018/19.

This was below the council’s target of nine days, and more than three days above the national average for the public sector.

Cllr Swersky said: “It is important people feel like they can use our sickness policy when they genuinely have reason to do so.

“It’s important that we support our staff with their health at work – making sure that our working environment is supportive.

“And, if people are off sick, that we have the policies in place to support them coming back to work as soon as possible.

“I’m not happy with the numbers, but we will be putting actions in place to try and address them.”

He explained that the council will not “hide” when it comes to detailing staff sickness levels and suggested that some local authorities underreport absence figures.

And he reiterated the need for people to take their health seriously, pointing out that some working in the private sector feel “under pressure” to keep working at all costs.

His words came after Cllr Almond suggested that the council compare itself to the private sector if it truly wants to present itself as a commercial organisation.