STRESSED police officers are calling in sick twice as much as five years ago.

Essex Police already had one of the highest sickness rates and the numbers are still rising with officers currently taking on average 12.4 sick days a year, according to the latest figures.

More than a quarter of the officers are taking time off because they are stressed, anxious or depressed (Sad).

In 2009/10 there were 27,654 sick days taken by the 3,600 officers. The amount taken off because of Sad was 5,132 days.

In 2013/14 there were 41,251 sick days taken by the 3,300 officers. The amount taken of because of Sad was 11,238 days.

Mark Smith, chairman of the Essex Police Federation, said: "It is a huge problem and will get worse.

“There are things the force can’t control, like pay freezes pensions and changes.

“And then there are things they can.

“Rest days and annual leave is being cancelled.

“They keep taking it away which does not help.”

He said the murder investigations in Colchester meant longer shifts and no leave which officers accepted in the circumstances.

But cancelling leave to clear backlogs due to a lack of staff are not acceptable and cause more problems in the long term, according to Mr Smith.

Nick Alston, police and crime commissioner for Essex, said: “The impact of reported anxiety, depression and stress is clear in the figures.

“This figure is worryingly high.

“Clearly the root causes of this increase must be properly understood and managed.”

He claimed major changes to the structure of the force following Government cuts have not helped and major incidents such as the murders in Colchester placed “significant strain” on the force and officers.

He added: “Over the past few years cost cutting measures went too far in the areas of occupational health and access to physiotherapy services.

“I know the Chief Constable and his senior team are working to increase the support available to injured officers.”

Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: "The figures show the number of days taken off by officers due to stress related illnesses has risen.

"This is a worry and I’m working with my senior management team and HR department to ensure that everyone who works for Essex Police is being fully supported.

"By its nature policing is a stressful job.

"That’s why it is important that all officers and police staff who work for Essex Police are given the welfare support they need.”

Several measures have been brought in to try and reduce the rates, which are more than double the average for employees.

These include:

  • More resources to manage absences locally
  • Health promotion initiatives and increased funding for physiotherapy and occupational health
  • Make use of officers in some capacity who cannot return to full duty
  • A new performance improvement unit to tackle problem officers who may be taking sickies or under performing
  • Managers to address reasons for absence earlier and provide more support and make more contact
  • Development plans for the frequent absentees
  • A new head of health services to reduce absence days lost to sickness.


The average number of sick days taken by employees in England has fallen below six a year.

Essex police officers - 12.4 days

Essex PCSOs - 16.8 days

NHS staff - 9.5 days

UK average worker - 6 days

UK average employer - 4.4 days