BALLYMONEY Borough Council employees are, on average, off work on the sick for around three and a half weeks of the year, it has emerged.

Staff absenteeism figures show the Riada House-based Council has the highest level of sickness out of the 26 councils in Northern Ireland.

On average staff employed by the Council were off sick for 17 days - or almost three and a half working weeks - per year.

With around 120 employees at the Council that totalled to around 2,000 lost working days amongst the whole of the Council workforce.

Northern Ireland Audit Office figures show that the days lost per employee at Ballymoney Council were, on average, 17 per worker followed by Carrickfergus on 16 and Moyle, Banbridge and Newtownabbey had an average absenteeism of 14 days per head.

The lowest absenteeism was in Magherafelt at five days per employee.

The figures, just released in a report by the Chief Local Government Auditor Louise Mason on December 19, relate to the 2010-11 financial year.

Across all the councils in Northern Ireland Louise Mason says the average sickness rate in 2010-11 was 10.89 days a year compared with 11.20 days the previous year.

The Auditor said it is important that those councils with high absenteeism rates should review their own management practices and benchmark them against councils with lower sick leave.

A spokesperson for Ballymoney Council told the Times they are concerned that the Council is at the top of the absenteeism league table but that their latest data shows things are improving.

The spokesperson said: “Ballymoney Borough Council is concerned with the level of absence shown in those figures. It is one of the smallest councils in Northern Ireland with around 120 employees, so one person off for a full year equates to almost two days lost per employee.

“In 2010/11 - 17 days were lost per employee and 14 days were due to long term sickness. In the most recent year 2011/12, Council was pleased to note that the overall number of days lost per employee had fallen to 9 and a half.

“Council hopes this improvement will be sustained but is aware that in a small workforce a few people off through long term illness can have a major impact on the figures.”