SICKNESS levels can be tackled by a common-sense approach, according to Dorset Council cabinet member Andrew Parry.

His comments came after a debate about rising absence levels at the council which now has each employee, on average, taking 9 sick days each year.

Cllr Parry said that passenger assistants, which typically work with people with disabilities, elderly people or children, used to have one of the highest level of sickness under the previous council at more than 20 days a year – but that had now been reduced to around 10 days.

He said that relatively simple measures, like offering flu jabs and making sure that new employees were fit enough for the job, together with safety training had all helped to ‘design out’ the level of sickness absence.

He said that good working practices and a confident and well-led workforce also tended to have lower absence rates.

Cllr Parry said that he had found a ‘happy and confident’ team on a visit to the Wareham-based unit social services call centre.

The team of experienced social workers take incoming calls, often of an emergency nature, 365 days a year, 24 hour a day, working four days on and three off. Cllr Parry said that despite the pressures of their work where they would often hear harrowing details about allegations of abuse, staff appeared to be in good heart.

He said not only did they have a modern working environment but managers ensured that staff did take all the breaks they were entitled to, helping them manage what he described as “intense periods of working.”

He said that the council was aware that staff were the authority’s biggest asset and was determined to do all it could to look after them.