§ Ms Blears
[holding answer 14 May 2002]: The latest annual report published by Cabinet Office "Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service—2000" shows that, in 2000, the Department's unadjusted average working day absence per staff year was 5.5, down from 6.6 in 1999. Figures for 2001 or later years are not yet published.
While the Department collects data on sickness absence, which includes stress, it is not possible to identify if the cause of the recorded 'stress related illness' was work related, or due to other work related mental health problems. It is not possible, therefore, to identify these costs.
The Department is committed to meeting its public sector agreement (PSA) target on reducing sickness absence as agreed with the Cabinet Office and Treasury, 159W and has a number of procedures in place to help managers and staff to be aware of and to reduce work-related stress. The Department has:issued guidance for managers and staff in line with health & safety legislation on 'Working Time Regulations'.has a mental health policy that recognises that stress at work is a significant contributor to mental health problems.issued guidance to managers and staff on the causes of stress and how to reduce thisprovides staff with a free confidential counselling service, "Care First", andencourages its staff to attend relevant training or discuss any concerns with their line managers.