The Eastern Cape Local Government and Traditional Affairs Department wasted 23 years in staff sick days during the 2010/11 financial year.

In response to a parliamentary question it was announced that 5 484 lost days for sick leave at a cost of R 4,5 million was incurred by the department.

This must beg the question if employees are not taking unnecessary sick leave as an employment perk!

Of further concern is that 576 employees or 37 % of the staff complement of the department took sick leave in that year.

Clearly there are serious underlying domestic and social causes to this, of which stress, as stated in the reply, plays a big role.

If one estimates that the average employee works a 22 day month for 11 months of a calendar year, then this equates to a loss of 23 years working days in a single year.

This state of affairs is unacceptable.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has asked the Department to explain what sick leave, wellness and stress relief measures are in place to assist staff to mitigate against such high incidents of sick leave.

It would appear that whatever aids are in place to assist staff with stress and other related conditions need to be beefed up.

The Democratic Alliance believes that a holistic approach to wellness and sick management needs to become a priority of all employees of every provincial department to ensure that our valued employees can feel well and work effectively in a healthy environment.

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