Derbyshire’s cops have more time off through stress than anywhere in the UK – costing the taxpayer £1million in sick pay, new figures show.
Concerned Police Federation bosses said the force could be ‘on the precipice’ after figures revealed it has 30 officers signed off , amounting to 1.56 per cent of the total.
The numbers, obtained from 35 out of 43 forces in England and Wales, show Derbyshire has five times more officers absent with stress than the Metropolitan Police force, where 0.33 per cent or 101 officers are off.
Based on an average officer salary of £36,500, that amounts to a wage bill of £1,095,000 per year in the county, or over £21,000 every week.
Alan Charles, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner pointed to low morale as a reason why so many staff were off sick.
He said: “I am concerned about any stress-related illness affecting anybody in the police service.
“There are all the issues relating to changes to terms and conditions of service, pensions and pay – all the things that everyone is going through. There could be a morale problem.”
Mark Pickard, chairman of Derbyshire Police Federation said the force was feeling the pressure of cutbacks and increased workloads.
He said: “We note these findings with some concern.”
“Just two weeks ago, the latest figures revealed police officer numbers nationwide had reached a ten-year low and here in Derbyshire we have lost a significant number of officers in the last four years.
“But there has been no comparable reduction in calls for our support and, in fact, with the funding cuts in other areas, such as the ambulance service and mental health support services, the police service has had to step in and bridge the gaps, creating its own problems.
“We may now be on the precipice, we will see, but it is already clear that some individuals are feeling the pressure.
“Naturally some people are greatly affected by certain issues such as increased workload, bureaucracy or incidents they attend.”
But Phil Mason, head of human resources at Derbyshire police questioned the reliability of the figures.
He said: “Only around two thirds of forces responded to the Freedom of Information request which does not given a representative national picture.
“Derbyshire Constabulary’s stress-related absences are in line with the national average at around one per cent of the workforce.
“Like any organisation there will be instances where staff members will need to take time off for stress.
“Often this is for non work-related reasons such as family bereavements but at times officers are affected by the work they do.
“Staff wellbeing is a priority for the force and we offer professional support sessions, particularly to officers in roles such as child protection and collision investigation.
Alan Charles, was set to discuss the issue at his strategic governance board on Monday, said the overall sickness levels in the force are lower than the national and regional average.
“I have to look at the whole picture” he said. “It has been going up, and is higher than our target figure but it’s still lower than the national average.”