Agenda item

Absence update

Report of the Leader of Council.


The Leader presented a report on a review of absence statistics for the period 1 April to 30 September 2019; regular updates on this item formed part of the committee’s Work Programme.  He invited the Senior HR Officer, Jane Jenkinson, to provide an overview of the statistics in the report. 


The Senior HR Officer explained:


·       That the authority’s average number of sick days during the period was 6 days per person.  The figures showed 34% of sick leave was in respect of the Street Scene Service and 18% in the Improvement and Repairs Service.  These services had a large number of manual workers and this employee group historically held a high absence rate.   Many authorities no longer had inhouse street scene and repairs services and therefore had lower absenteeism rates.  Should these services be removed from the absence figures, the overall rate would fall to 4 days per person for the same period


·       There had been a decrease in back and neck absence. This had been mainly due to 2 employees who had long-term absences leaving on medical grounds, which had had a significant effect on the percentage for this category


·       That the HR Team was continually working with managers on health matters. It was noted that termination of employment was considered where there was no early return to work.  They particularly targeted those service areas were this was an ongoing concern


·       That stress-related absence had increased in line with national surveys. This had increased over the last 12 months. Some absences were attributed to changes to the business and service reviews but there was also stress caused by non-work matters


·       The Council had introduced Mental Health First Aiders which was a confidential service and was accessible by all staff.  There had been stress awareness training facilitated by MIND and this had been well attended by staff and there were more sessions to be held in 2020.  There was also a counselling service available to staff


·       HR was monitoring return to work interviews and these were currently at approximately 80% completion rate. First line manager training was to start shortly, which would include managing absence and emphasise the importance of return to work interviews


·       HR was working with the Change Team to streamline processes in collating and presenting HR statistics


It was felt that the financial impact of absenteeism would be helpful for the Committee to know.  The Strategic Director for Transformation and Change responded that his team was developing HR dashboards for managers to understand the demographic make-up of their team, causes for sickness absence etc and build in a calculator that worked out the cost of absence for each team.  Dashboard results were currently being evaluated and would be presented to this Committee so that members could see the impact in terms of costs of lost time, temporary cover and productivity.


Members were concerned as to whether the Council was doing enough to help staff with stress and mental health matters.  However they felt that it was a positive step forward that staff  could admit to mental health issues and this meant that the Council was able to make plans to address these issues through training, support, changing the culture of the organisation in being more agile, modernising the workspace, better communications and improving the way people worked.  Mental health was identified as an area for the work programme and one Member asked whether it would be possible to gather data to show how much the service was being used without compromising confidentiality.


There had been a previous request at the June meeting for some statistics on work-related absences and it was noted that these be provided at the next committee meeting.  Reference was made to a recent briefing attended by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, at which career prospects for staff were discussed.


Action point

It was requested that details from the recent briefing on career prospects for staff be circulated to Committee Members.


The Committee noted the report.

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