SOUTHEND Council staff are taking less time off because of illness and stress – despite worries about job cuts.

The Unison union, which represents about half the Civic Centre’s 1,600 staff, has claimed job cuts there have been putting workers under so much pressure, some have collapsed at work.

The council plans to lose the equivalent of more than 40 fulltime posts as part of £7.3million of spending cuts.

However, the latest council figures suggest the council has lost fewer days in the past year through staff sickness and stress.

Officials say they expect the average worker will have taken six days sick in the year ending on March 31. The average in 2012/13 was 7.85 days.

The national average is 8.7 sick days a year in the public sector and 7.2 in the private sector. The number of days specifically lost because of stress also reduced, significantly.

Joanna Ruffle, who heads the council’s personnel team, said: “Sickness levels across the council continue to fall.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff is very important to us and we are continually looking at newways to support staff and to help them to live healthier lives.”

The job cuts are part of a programme which saw the equivalent of 80 full-time posts cut in the current year and the 120 in 2012-13.

Unison branch secretary Claire Wormald said the council’s tougher new sickness policy – brought in with the union’s help – had reduced absences. However, she warned the policy could be pressuring staff to come to work when they were ill.

She said: “From our members’ point of view, the general feeling is it means a lot of people remain in work when, possibly, they shouldn’t be there. I’m not saying the council hasn’t worked to help this problem.

“Absences may have reduced, but in many cases, people no longer feel they can take time off.”