Report of the Leader of the Council
The Leader of the Council introduced the report on the sickness absence statistics and analysis. He explained that the report covered the absence statistics for the whole of the 2019/20 financial year and quarter 1 of 2020/21.
The Senior HR Officer then gave an overview of the main points in the report. The HR department was supporting managers to deal with absences through training in absence management. A dashboard had also been developed to display absence statistics, which would better enable managers to understand any patterns of absence within their service area. The dashboard also included completion rates for return to work interviews.
It was highlighted that a particular emphasis was being placed on addressing mental health related absences, due to the increased pressure Covid-19 had placed on people over the preceding months. Managers had been encouraged to make use of resources available and take more of a pro-active approach to supporting the mental wellness of their staff. The Employee Assistance Programme had also been promoted to both staff and Members.
Members were asked if they had any questions relating to the report or the appended information. A question was raised regarding the figures provided in Appendix 1. A Member asked if any further analysis had been undertaken in relation to age or gender for the absence statistics and asked why the total for the percentage values in each table did not total one hundred percent. It was confirmed that a further breakdown of the absence figures, including factors such as age and gender, could be provided at a future meeting. Due to the large scope of options for reporting types of absence, not all of these had been included within the tables in the appendix but officers confirmed that greater detail could be provided in future reports.
Reference was made to a comment from the Leader that the statistics gave a more positive outlook without the Street Care absence figures included. A Member queried if the higher levels of absence in the Street Care team was a cause for concern. It was explained that a higher level of musculo-skeletal absences was expected in teams undertaking manual job roles. The Strategic Director for Transformation and Change added that having an in-house manual workforce caused a greater variation in absence statistics in comparison to local authorities which outsourced their manual operations.
One Member noted the positive improvement in the number of return to work interviews completed and asked for this to be closely monitored moving forward, with a view to attaining a one hundred percent completion rate in future.
Officers were asked if the absence management training was optional for those managers undertaking it as refresher training. It was confirmed that the refresher training was currently arranged on a voluntary basis but as part of the HR Team’s wider work with managers, it would be more proactive going forward in identifying any areas where improvement and training was required. It was suggested by the Chairman that a training log should be developed to keep track of training undertaken by managers.
A comment was made that the Council’s absence rates were higher than expected. Members felt that it would be prudent for an action plan to be developed to address absence rates. The Leader confirmed that this suggestion would be developed and presented at the Committee’s next meeting, along with the suggested further information requested regarding the absence statistics in the report.
· A further breakdown of absence statistics to be provided at the next meeting, including a wider range of absence types and a breakdown by age and gender.
· The completion rate of return to work interviews to continue to be monitored by the HR Team.
· An action plan to be developed for managing levels of absence within the Council and presented at the Committee’s next meeting.