SICK days at West Dunbartonshire Council have cost £5.8 million in the past year.

A report produced for last week’s housing and communities committee revealed the local authority had missed its ambitious target of seven days sick leave for each employee, instead coming in at an average 10.5 days for each worker.

The community health and care sector topped the list with 18.77 days lost per each of its 746 employees.

Minor illnesses were stated as the most common reason for absence with 15,802.5 days lost.

However, the council’s improvement strategy – which it was forced to incorporate after losing more than 57,000 days to absence in 2015 giving it the worst sickness rates in the country – has seen the total number of sick days decline over the past year.

The report states: “This year, the council has reported an 11.3 per cent improvement in attendance levels, but there are some areas of the organisation that are showing limited signs of improvement.

“Without maintaining and continuing to improve attendance there continues to be a potential risk of loss of productivity, reduced team performance and detrimental impact to service delivery.”

The overall cost of the authority’s sick days has dropped too.

The loss of 46,915 days to absence cost the council a total of £5.77m this year, compared with the £6.75m bill for the loss of 57,211 days in 2015.

Cllr Martin Rooney, leader of the opposition, said: “It’s an awful lot of money but if people are sick, people are sick but there must be a way in which we can tackle it.”

In a council report Victoria Rogers, strategic lead, people and technology, said: “Improving attendance at work is a key strategic priority for the council requiring commitment from elected members, strategic leadership group, trades unions, individual managers and employees.”

She added: “Year on year we are taking forward steps but there’s still some work to go.”

This week, Leven councillor Jim Bollan lent his voice to the debate, saying: “Until the macho management culture that has been evident in the council over recent years is stopped, too many staff will still become sick mainly with stress.

“If a GP examines a worker and declares them unfit for work the management should not be undermining that decision by pressurising staff to get back to work, too early.

“Hundreds of jobs have been lost in recent years with remaining staff expected to carry that extra work load on top of their own while their living standards are going in reverse due to cuts and pay freezes.”

Clydebank’s MSP Gil Paterson said: “I am glad to see the council’s strategy to combat a high number of sick days is working.

“While sick days are just the reality of running any organisation, I very much welcome taxpayers’ money being saved in the last year.

“We need our frontline council services being run efficiently. I hope this improvement can continue onto next year as well.”

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie added: “West Dunbartonshire Council must address the reasons behind staff absence, including stress, and offer staff the support they need to avoid having to take time off in the first place.

“We simply cannot afford to lose much-needed funding for local services to high absence rates when council budgets are being squeezed by the Scottish Government.“I hope that the council will continue to work closely with the trade unions to address the issue and protect funding for our frontline services.”

Richard Cairns, the council’s strategic director for regeneration, environment and growth, said the authority would continue its attempts to improve the figures but believed it was on the right track.

The addition of the new employee wellbeing group – which met for the first time in March – is the latest bid to reduce the statistics. And offering staff the chance to work from home is also an option.