SICKNESS and days off by council staff cost the county £750,000 between April and June this year.

Although sickness levels fell, staff took a combined 7317 days off sick over the three months and the most common reason for long term illness was mental health, stress and depression, accounting for a third of all illness.

It was revealed that during this time 11 more people have gone onto long term sickness at the council, taking the total up to 109.

The reduction in the total number of days lost due to illness was 13.4 per cent, which has been put down to improved weather and fewer flu outbreaks.

Chairman of the Wiltshire Council, councillor Allison Bucknell, chairman of the staffing policy committee said: “There are two types of stress, caused by the job and stress caused by private life outside of work. For stress caused by work we can get on that straight away and the occupational health team will do their level best to help that person and get them back to work. For stress at home we are unable to deal with this in the same way.

“More people are talking about mental health now so people will identify the illness instead of it masquerading as another illness. Then our managers can more likely deal with the situation.

“The report showed that many of the cases of work related stress are related and so if there is a grievance there is also stress, but that goes away once that is resolved.

“People will talk about tonsillitis or kidney problems but not always mental health. However it is just another illness and you can be cured. Mental health is now being talked about nationally and we need to normalise it. ”

A report presented at the staffing policy committee meeting last week stated: “The overall number of days lost to sickness in this quarter has reduced by seven per cent compared to the same quarter last year. However, an additional 11 people, up to 109, were absent on long-term sickness, more than 20 days, in the quarter, increasing the number of days lost to long term sickness by 472 days, up 12.8 per cent.”