STAFF sickness levels at all five Gwent local authorities are far above the national average.

This week the Argus reported Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council is looking into staff sickness levels after a report showed employees took an average of 12.4 days off sick between April 2016 and March 2017.

The report also showed Caerphilly council staff took 12.2 days off, while Monmouthshire employees took an average of 11.5 days off over the same period. Meanwhile Torfaen council workers took 10.8 days off and Newport council had an average of 9.8 days.

The national average according to the Office for National Statistics is 4.3 days.

A Caerphilly council spokesman said: "We have robust sickness absence policies in place and our managers are supported to ensure that they are applied effectively in the workplace, but we acknowledge that there is still room for improvement."

A Monmouthshire council spokesman said measures put in place to improve sickness rates had meant the average for full-time employees had fallen to 4.5 days between April and September last year.

Meanwhile, a Torfaen council spokesman said, while sickness levels had fallen since 2013, the authority recognised it is an area for improvement and was currently carrying out a review.

"There is a considerable difference in sickness rates across services and reasons for absence vary depending on the wide range of roles carried out by the local government workforce," he said.

"One area which we are particularly concerned about is the increase in mental health absences which account for a quarter of all absences and are typically for longer periods.

"While the reasons for this increase may not be wholly work related, it is anticipated that work pressure and increased demands upon fewer staff due to prolonged cuts to services and teams is a significant factor."

He added the council provides counselling services for staff.

A Newport council spokeswoman said sickness levels at the authority were "improving year on year".

"This is despite additional pressures on staff as a result of continuing austerity which has meant fewer resources and increased demand," she said.

"Staff sickness is managed robustly but fairly," she said. "A significant proportion of the figures is made up of long term illness and, as a compassionate employer, we do all we can to support unwell colleagues."

The Blaenau Gwent council report said: “Relatively high levels of sickness absence will have a detrimental impact on the ability of the council to deliver services effectively."