According to the CBI survey, Managing absence, town hall workers were absent for an average of 9.2 days, a lower level than government agencies, education and training and National Health Service trusts. Government agency staff were the worst offenders with 10.6 days off.
The CBI estimates sickness absence cost the UK£12 billion last year. The mean cost of absence in the public sector was£2.6bn. According to the survey, the cost per employee is 1.5 times higher in the public sector.
Absence rates in local government ranged from a low of six days to a high of 11.4. However, absence in the public sector was higher than in the private sector: 10.2 days a year compared to 7.3. There were 691 respondents, 75 of them from local government.
This was confirmed by Local Government Management Board principle research officer Peter Norris, who organises local government's own absence survey: 'Levels are higher in metropolitan councils, London boroughs and counties than they are in shire districts.'
He said this could be due to the size of organisation or the mix of occupations. Manual staff and some social workers, employed in larger groups by the bigger councils, are more likely to suffer injuries at work.
The amount of face-to-face contact and the number of staff answering to one line manager were also factors, he said.
Acording to the LGMB, staff in local government compare well with workers across the whole economy. Its figures for 1995-96 show full-time white-collar staff in local government took on average eight days off. This compares with the CBI's 7.9 for white-collar staff across the economy.