THREE leading unions have hit out amid rising stress-related absences among Glasgow City Council staff.

Unite, Unison and the GMB expressed concern after a Freedom of Information request revealed that 918 workers were off work with stress last year – the highest number since before 2012.

And since January this year, 685 staff have not made it to work after suffering stress, anxiety, depression or nervous debility.

Glasgow City Council confirmed it has recently agreed a new absence policy, which seeks to promote early intervention and the local authority’s counselling services.

But Eddie Cassidy, Convener of Unite at Glasgow City Council, said: “Unite are very concerned but not surprised at these high figures.

“Unite representatives have continually warned both Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government about stress at work and wider mental health issues in the workplace.

“We feel it has a direct correlation with the continual, excessive, reduction in funding to all local authorities’ budgets and the huge pressures workers are under as a result.”

Since 2012, 5,030 Glasgow City Council staff have been absent through work through stress.

The FOI also found that so far this year, 35 workers have been absent for six months or more through ‘psychological’ reasons.

Rhea Wolfson, GMB Scotland Organiser, said: “These figures absolutely reflect what we are hearing from our members.

“The pressure to provide an excellent service is placed on the shoulders of the staff while funding is being cut. They are being asked to do more with less. Services are at breaking point.

“We’ve also seen that some managers have not been trained in how to deal with mental health issues, so when people come back to work, they are finding that they’re not able to reintegrate into the working environment.”

Brian Smith, the Glasgow Unison Branch Secretary, added: “The public sector, in general, is being left without enough resources. Against that background, we’re going to have these problems.

“We have campaigned for more resources to help fix the problem at source.

“The council needs to fight for more money from the Scottish Government. We have been making that point for the last 10 years.”

This year 440 local authority staff have been absent from work through stress, with 144 anxiety-related call-offs, 87 being recorded as depression and 14 for nervous debility.

Glasgow City Council highlighted that stress isn’t always work-related and can be due to personal issues.

A spokeswoman said: “We have recently updated our absence policy which is very much about early intervention and supporting staff.

“The council also has a counselling and information service to support employees and line managers are instructed to ensure people are aware of it and know how to access the help it can provide.”

The council’s new absence policy states that staff who report absent due to psychological conditions are spoken to by managers to establish if an early intervention meeting or referral to employee assistance providers are appropriate.

The policy adds that managers will remind employees who suffer from psychological conditions, that counselling services are available.