Carmarthenshire Council’s plan to curb the number of council workers calling in sick have been labelled as “victim blaming” by local councillors ahead of this month’s Budget.

As part of the authority’s budget setting process, the Council have consulted the public on plans that seek to save money by reducing the number of sickness days within the domiciliary care team, yet opponents argue that previous attempts to reduce sickness have not been effective and further cuts planned will compound the issue.

Last year, Carmarthenshire Council set aside half a million pounds to commission a provider to supply a stress management service for the employees of the Council and its partner organisations. It is claimed that the cost of the service escalated to just under £1m and despite this intervention, an increase in sickness was recorded

Branch Secretary of Carmarthenshire Unison, Mark Evans, said: "It’s little wonder that stress is the main cause of sickness absence in Carmarthenshire County Council, and little wonder that the Plaid led Carmarthenshire County Council rather point the finger at employees saying they are not resilient enough, rather than accept that through implementing vicious cuts, they are primarily the cause of employee sickness.

"While punitive measures such as the current sickness policy can scare employees into presentism (attending work while ill) for a while this is self-defeating as it results in lowering morale and productivity.

"There is a saying those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, this applies to the council if they continue to take punitive measures to reduce sickness levels without reducing workloads and stopping cuts they are doomed to fail."

Councillor Rob James, Labour’s Deputy Leader, is calling on the Council to change course.

He said: ""The constant victim blaming that exists in this authority must change.

"With fewer employees providing vital services to our local community, it is hardly surprising that stress-related sickness is increasing.

‘The Council have spent £985,000 on occupational health in an attempt to tackle sickness and the result was an increase of sickness per employee of 0.6 days.

"That’s thousands of days of sickness across the authority and this year’s planned cuts in areas such as domiciliary care will merely compound the issue.

"Staff members are worried that they may lose their job if they call in sick and we must do more to support those working under enormous pressure.

‘With campaigns, such as this week’s ‘Time to Talk Day’ that encourages individuals to discuss mental health issues openly, we must ensure that we support our hardworking employees and use more compassionate language when discussing sickness.

"The only real answer to the rise in sickness is attacking the root cause, austerity."