THE number of council workers calling in sick fell during the first three months of the pandemic, according to Oxfordshire staffing data.

As coronavirus began to spread through the UK in March and the country went into lockdown, a smaller number of people than expected claimed sick days: with rates below that from previous years, according to Oxfordshire County Council's HR department.

A human resources report covering the first part of the 2020-21 financial year said: "It is likely that the reduction is a direct correlation to most staff working from home due to Covid, including those who were shielded or isolating but still working.

"It is thought that working from home with reduced commutes and the ability to work more flexibly may have positively impacted on reduced sickness absence levels."

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The HR report added that though there was a reduction in short term sicknesses, the number of staff at Oxfordshire County Council taking long term sick leave: that is 20 days or more; had increased.

According to HR, this was likely because there were people who were told to shield but could not work from home, so had been placed on sick leave.

Over the first three months of the 2020-21 year, there were a total of 5,052 staff on Oxfordshire County Council's books.

Out of these, 665 took short term sick leave: 13.16 per cent of the overall staff,

The report also gave an overview of when staff from different departments had been taking sick leave and the reasons for it.

A series of graphs showed a peak in the number of staff on the sick around late March and early April.

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While a small number of staff members across all departments had officially listed their reason for sickness as Covid 19, the majority had not.

Most were either taking sick days because they had to self-isolate with Covid symptoms but no confirmation of the disease, while a large number of staff were also listed as sick with 'other illnesses'.

The HR report, shared with senior councillors on the cabinet last Tuesday (September 15) also took a dive into the diversity of staff at the council.

At the council 7.9 per cent of the workforce are BAME, 84.3 per cent are white British, and 7.8 per cent are of an undeclared ethnicity.

The BAME population proportion of Oxfordshire is slightly higher than that of the council workforce at 9.2 per cent, but the BAME percentage of workers specifically in social care with the council is 12.3 per cent.

On September 8, elected councillors voted in support of a pledge to make the council anti-racist, which highlighted the fact that BAME communities are underrepresented in the council workforce.