COUNCILLORS have questioned the reasons behind employee absences after it was revealed teachers did not list any sick days as a result of mental health issues – despite high stress rates.

As a meeting of West Dunbartonshire Council’s Educational Services committee last week, Councillor John Mooney raised concerns over the number of teachers who had taken a leave of absence due to stress but not mental health.

Statistics revealed 100 of 1,475 days lost by support staff over the second quarter of 2017/18 were due to mental health issues.

However, zero of teachers’ 734.5 days were listed as mental health related. While work related stress resulted in 36 days and personal stress caused 94.

Minor illness was the highest cause of absence across both groups.

Councillor Mooney asked the educational services committee for a reason behind the stats as committee chair Councillor Karen Conaghan agreed she found it a “wee bit strange”.

Geraldine Lyden, a HR business partner at the council, responded: “There could be elements of mental health [within the stress category] but we wouldn’t categorise it so specifically unless we had that from the health practitioner.”

Council leader Councillor Jonathan McColl praised teaching staff for “powering through” when they weren’t feeling their best.

He said: “It’s astonishing that teachers have managed to maintain such levels of absence.

“It shows the commitment that teachers have.

“I’m sure that there are days teachers have struggled on, days they really should have been at home because they didn’t want to let anyone down.”

Teaching staff are not the only council sector to avoid listing mental health as a reason for absence resulting in just 738 of the council’s 13,818 days lost.

The report before councillors shows the following sectors also have zero recorded sick days for mental health purposes: child healthcare and criminal justice; finance resources; strategy, planning and health improvement; environment and neighbourhood; regeneration; communications, culture and communities; and people and technology.

Cllr Conaghan added: “It’s quite an interesting point.

“How ready are some people to declare they have a mental health issue compared to some others?”

Overall, the number of sick days among council staff is up from 2.16 days in 2016/17 to 2.53 days in 2017/18, with education staff accounting for 1.71 days.

Ms Lyden said: “We had a high proportion of stress at work related cases.

“I just want to reassure you having looked at a lot of those cases the majority of them are back.”

However, she assured councillors all those who had returned to work had been properly cared for.