SICKNESS levels at Dorset Council are now below what would be normally expected for the time of year.

At around the time lockdown was announced numbers off with symptoms of coronavirus soared but have now fallen right back.

Executive director for corporate development Aidan Dunn says that sickness rates now stand at below the seasonal average for the time of year although many staff are working long hours and even on weekend, evenings and on bank holidays, often in stressful situations.

Around 2,000 council staff are in front line roles with social distancing or even the use of PPE if advised, another 2,500 are mostly working from home.

No Dorset Council staff have been furloughed, although some at neighbouring Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, have been.

Mr Dunn says the council have managed to keep key services going, partially by moving staff from areas where they normally work, to somewhere else. In some cases staff have had to be completely re-trained for new roles.

The authority also set up its own internal ‘skills agency’ with about 500 staff on its books whose skills are transferable, or were happy to be re-deployed elsewhere. Examples include library staff who have moved to roles answering, or making calls to people who are shielding at home and finance staff who moved from their area of expertise to help dealing with business grants which the council administers on behalf of the Government, tackling more than 6,000 applications to date and making payments worth £75million.

The council is currently preparing for what might happen when lockdown rules are eased with office space having to be re-configured to maintain social distancing and is also looking at staggered working times or having some staff only come into the office on a rota. Many will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future.

Systems are also in place at the council to offer support and guidance, where needed, for staff who may be suffering mental health issues, or anxiety and depression, because of the current situation.