Agenda and minutes

Employment Committee
Wednesday, 20th March, 2019 10.00 am

Venue: River Room, Jubilee Church Life centre, 5 London Rd, Grantham NG31 6EY

Contact: Jo Toomey 

No. Item




Apologies for absence


Disclosure of interests


Minutes of the meeting held on 25 February 2019

    Additional documents:


    The public and exempt minutes of the meeting held on 25 February 2019 were agreed as a correct record subject to the following addition:


    “The Employment Committee had recommended that a report on declaration of officer interests be presented at Council on 1 March 2019. There was insufficient time to add such an item to the agenda of the meeting, therefore further work on the matter would be undertaken by the Constitution Committee as part of its review of the Council’s Constitution. Legal opinion and testing would be undertaken on any proposals as part of that process.”


    Committee Members were given reassurance that work with the Constitution Committee had already begun, with the review considering officer delegations and officer disclosures of interest. The Monitoring Officer stated that there were some initial thoughts about the declarations that could be required and the distinctions between senior officers and the wider officer cohort. He added that before anything could be implemented, it would be necessary to make sure the revised declaration arrangements had a sound basis and would not constitute an unreasonable request. The Chief Executive added his support to ensuring that clarified arrangements were in place as soon as possible.


    One Member referred to a request that he had made at the previous meeting to view the bids that were received in respect of the contract that was awarded to Davidson and Partners. Officers agreed to circulate copies of those documents.


    A question was also raised about whether the exempt minutes of the meeting held on 25 February 2019 were necessary, making reference to an article that had appeared in local newspapers. Members were advised that the question had been raised, in the first instance, in a public setting, which had meant that the Council had received a number of enquiries from the local press. As with any other allegation regarding conduct, it was appropriate for it to be considered by the Committee in private session. The local news outlets advised the Council of their intention to write an article on the matter; the Council took legal advice which suggested that it was appropriate for the Council to issue a statement. The statement given to the local media did not include any of the specifics of the case nor detailed information that was included within the report.


    One Member asked whether there was an update on the position with the Council’s legal services following the departure of the Solicitor to the Council in December 2018. Whilst options for the future delivery of the legal service were being considered, Councillors were advised that the Council was drawing down support from a shared service provider, LGSS, which had provided a named individual, who was acting as the Council’s Interim Head of Legal.


Gender pay report pdf icon PDF 209 KB

    Additional documents:


    The Council’s Head of Organisational Development presented the report of the Deputy Leader which set out the gender pay gap information that the Council was required to publish annually. She explained that under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 the Council was required to publish its gender pay gap information as at 31 March of the previous year.


    Members were given a brief overview of the methodology that was used to calculate the mean and median gender pay gaps and the pay quartiles by gender. Information from 31 March 2017 was also provided as a comparison.


    Members’ attention was drawn to an action plan (appended to the report) that set out the actions the Council was taking to reduce the gender pay gap. Members were advised that the Strategic Director, Commercial and Operational had taken on the role of Equalities Lead. The Head of Organisational Development stated that there were further steps that the Council could take around recruitment. These included reviewing the way it advertised roles by placing greater weight on the values and behaviours expected than on skills that could be learnt.


    Training was planned for line managers, which would incorporate recruitment and selection and have an emphasis on flexibility. Managers were also asked to consider ways in which roles could be structured to allow as much flexibility as possible, including whether roles needed to be full-time or if they were suitable for a job-share arrangement.


    Members of the Committee were interested in what measures the Council was using to attract women looking to return to work. It was noted that financial help was available through the skills system, which could be used to support apprenticeships that covered upskilling, including people who were returning to work. Members noted that there were a number of large companies that had focused on attracting people who were returning to work; it was the consensus amongst Members that this should also be a key focus for the Council.


    Committee members asked whether the Council had a policy of trying to level out the gender pay gap or whether there was an acceptable tolerance. Members were advised that the report provided an opportunity to review the Council current position and serve as a tool to identify barriers that may prevent women having the same access to opportunities as men. There was acknowledgement that whilst selection processes would see the strongest candidate being offered the role regardless of their gender, concern existed over whether there were barriers that prevented a woman, who could be a strong candidate for a role, from applying.


    Discussion turned to the four quartiles and changes that had taken place between March 2017 and March 2018. Changes within the lower quartile were attributed to the Big Clean project, which had seen the Council take on a large number of temporary employees who, predominantly, were men. Members suggested that the gender split within each quartile was more useful than the mean and median hourly rates. Councillors were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44.


Staff survey action plan incorporating results and deliverables pdf icon PDF 206 KB

    Additional documents:


    The Senior HR Officer presented the report of the Deputy Leader of the Council on the staff survey action plan. Following the staff survey in 2018, an action plan had been developed to provide a co-ordinated response to concerns highlighted within the survey.


    The results of the survey had been presented to the Corporate Management Team in December 2018. In January 2019 the results were shared with the Employment Committee, the Senior Management Team, Trade Union representatives and staff. Members of the HR Team started meeting with managers in February 2019.


    Managers shared results of the 2017 survey with their teams in a variety of different ways. In 2018 the development and delivery of action plans to address areas of concern was dependent on the way in which the manager engaged with their team about the survey. Responses to the 2018 survey would be managed corporately so that similar measures were in place for common problems, ensuring a co-ordinated response.


    Eight themes of concern were highlighted by the staff survey results. Of those eight themes, all had seen improvement from the previous year’s survey with the exception of consistency.


    Members were advised that of all the surveys within the public and private sector, reward and communication tended to be highlighted as the biggest concerns. It was noted that whilst the results for South Kesteven highlighted communications as a concern, reward was not. Members noted that a full review of pay and reward would be commencing, which would consider how the grading system operates and rewarding staff for service ‘above and beyond’. Members asked whether consideration had been given to an awards scheme that recognised staff that went beyond what was expected of them. Officers stated that the Council had previously had a staff awards scheme but feedback indicated that it was not valued by staff. Examples were given of how individual teams shared compliments that had been received with the relevant team members.


    The Committee was advised that those areas that had scored well in 2017 had stabilised. As measures had been put in place to address those areas of greatest concern, new themes had fallen to the bottom.


    When recruiting, HR officers work with line managers to see whether the position would be suitable for an apprentice. Members noted that the breadth of apprenticeships with which the authority was engaging had expanded to incorporate higher education-level qualifications. Members were advised that officers were working with Lincoln University on such schemes.


    Members were advised that the organisation had 12 apprentices in post with another under recruitment. Apprenticeships were now available to support the development of existing staff; any learning and development matters would be highlighted through 1:1s and development plans. The Committee was interested in whether individuals were encouraged to identify opportunities for self-development and whether they would receive the support of managers. Officers advised that one of the strands within the Corporate Strategy related to learning and that all managers would be held accountable for supporting and promoting access  ...  view the full minutes text for item 45.


Return to work pdf icon PDF 194 KB

    Additional documents:


    At previous meetings of the Committee, members had asked about return to work arrangements following periods of sickness. The report of the Deputy Leader of the Council explained the procedures that were in place and line managers’ responsibilities in managing employees’ attendance.


    Members were advised of recent changes that had been made to the way in which return to work processes were managed. Following the introduction of iTrent in July 2018, the system had moved from being paper-based to electronic. When the system was updated to say that an officer had returned to work, an e-mail was automatically generated to advise the manager that they needed to carry out a return to work interview, this was followed-up with an automatic reminder message. HR produced a report at the end of each month; where there were concerns about particular teams, these were raised with directors as part of their monthly 1:1s.


    Where trends had been identified in respect of low completion rates, officers from HR had worked directly with those teams. This, together with greater corporate awareness championed by the Employment Committee, had seen an increase in the percentage of return to work interviews that were taking place. The completion rate for the first two months of 2019 was 84%, which compared with a return to work completion rate of 77% for other Lincolnshire local authorities.


    Officers within the HR team were evaluating the most efficient methods of optimising the rate of return to work interviews.


    Members noted the proposal for stepped improvements, consolidating the current position, then working towards exceeding 90% with a trajectory towards 100%. There was recognition that return to work interviews should not be box-ticking exercises; the interviews should add value. Members indicated that they hoped return to work interviews would be used to identify the root causes of sickness absence. While there was a moral aspect to the effective management of sickness absence and ensuring the wellbeing of Council staff, there were also economic advantages generated through improved morale and increased productivity.


    Members were advised of the process for sickness monitoring and the way return to work interviews may differ depending on the period and reason for absence. Following a one-day absence, the interview could take the form of a short conversation with the employee. A longer absence would involve a more detailed return to work interview, taking account of any occupational health referrals and understanding any adjustments that may need to be made to support the individual’s return to work.


    Committee members agreed that they would like to receive an update in three-months. Members also requested additional information, including the sickness rate, the breakdown of categories for sickness absence, any trends and the staff turnover rate.


Work programme pdf icon PDF 91 KB


    The Committee had agreed to include a further item on sickness absence on its work programme, covering the sickness rate, the categorisation of sickness, any trends and staff turnover.


    Members also added an item on organisational restructures; this report would provide a high-level update on the progress of any restructures that were happening across the organisation. The Committee also felt it would be useful for the new Committee that would be in place after the election in May 2019 to receive an overview of the organisational structure.


Any other business, which the Chairman, by reason of special circumstances, decides is urgent


    The Chairman thanked the Members who had served on the Committee for their work and those officers who had supported the Committee. He offered best wishes to those Members and their families who were not standing for re-election in May 2019, together with those Members who would be re-standing.


Close of meeting