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Chief claims some police officers are faking sickies after nights out
6:20pm Tuesday 1st October 2013 in Echo News
POLICE in Essex have been accused by their boss of phoning in sick after a heavy night out.
Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said the force and the community were being let down by a minority of officers who abused the absence system.
Officers take an average of 12 days off sick every year in Essex.
Mr Kavanagh told the Essex Police Federation: “Some need help to get better and some of them are abusing the sickness management process.
“For those who are genuinely unwell, we are looking at how we support them through occupational heath.
“But, if you look at the overall numbers compared to other forces, there is also a group – a small group, but a group nonetheless – abusing the process.
“If they can’t get time off, they take it sick. If they have a heavy night, on occasions they are taking days off.
“They will be challenged and, if necessary, they will be dealt with.”
The chief constable added after the meeting: “I am concerned the current levels of sickness mean some officers have to pick up the work of those not in.
“If anyone abuses the sickness management process, then they will be challenged.
“What I want to do is have a sickness management process that supports those who are genuinely in need.
“We should be much better than where we are at the moment. Nurses at Broomfield Hospital have an average of seven days off a year, while my officers are off for more than 12.
“Policing can be a stressful occupation, but so is being a nurse or a member of any other emergency service or the military.
“I will be working with the federation to see how we support those who are genuinely in need and how we work together to make sure people do not abuse the system.
“I think we all aspire to have one of the lowest sickness rates in the country.”
Mark Smith, chairman of the Essex Police Federation, agreed a solution was needed, but said stress and an inadequate welfare system were the main causes for the high absence rate.
He said: “Police officers are suffering. They are under pressure and more is being heaped on.
“Managers don’t have time to follow sickness procedures and we are not on top of it. There is no welfare system and the stress is too much.”
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “It is crucial Essex Police is as efficient as possible. Compared with many other organisations, the sickness level is quite high.
“When officers are off duty sick, more strain and responsibility is put on their colleagues, and the ability of the force to meet demand is challenged.
“I regularly review sickness rates with Chief Constable Kavanagh and his senior team.
I recognise many police officers are involved in physical work.
“I am also aware that officers are sometimes injured in the course of duty, protecting our communities and keeping us all safe.
“The force must support those officers in their medical and welfare needs, and in their recovery.”
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