Agenda and minutes

Employment Committee - Wednesday, 4th December, 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Witham Room - South Kesteven House, St. Peter's Hill, Grantham. NG31 6PZ. View directions

Contact: Jo Toomey 

No. Item


Apologies for absence

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    An apology had been received from Councillor Dobson.


Disclosure of interests

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    Members are asked to disclose any interests in matters for consideration at the meeting.


    No interests were disclosed.



Minutes of the meeting held on 4th September 2019 pdf icon PDF 163 KB

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    The Leader expressed concern that there was no report associated with the work programme on the agenda and would raise how he would like this to look when that item was considered later in the meeting. 


    The minutes of the meeting held on 4 September 2019 were agreed as a correct record.



Update on recruitment of Chief Executive

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    Since the recruitment of a permanent Chief Executive had been raised at the last meeting there had been positive steps to move the process forward.  The Leader referred to the background that Paul Thomas had been appointed as Interim Chief Executive in July 2019 until a permanent Chief Executive was appointed.  Solace had been appointed to facilitate the recruitment for the Council.  Solace was a well-respected market leader in Chief Executive and Director recruitment. The process began on the 4 November 2019 following a meeting between Solace, the Leader and HR Officers.  The job had been advertised shortly after and it was currently available on both Solace and the Council’s websites.  He had worked with Solace on editorial for a management journal which set out what the Council was looking for and circulated a copy to the Committee.  Solace was also actively headhunting and using social media to encourage suitable candidates. The deadline for applications was 9 December 2019. The Leader stated that he had already taken calls about the job and had several more phone conversations lined up with potential applicants over the next few days.  There had been a good level of interest from Chief Executives and Directors from other authorities across the region.  After the closing date, Solace would review the applications and send a list to the Head of Organisational Development ready for the shortlisting process to take place with Members on 19 December 2019.  He referred to interviews being planned for Wednesday 8 January 2020 and his preference was for all Members of the Employment Committee to be involved in both parts of the process and felt that the same members needed to be committed to both dates.


    Shortlisted candidates would take part in psychometric testing over the Christmas period and make a presentation at the interview. Interviews were to be held at Belton Woods Hotel.  


    Solace would guide the Council through the shortlisting and interview process as well as provide support on developing questions and supplementary questions which would be shared around the Members. 


    The successful candidate would be provisionally informed of the appointment on 8 January 2020 but the formal appointment would be subject to approval at the Council meeting on 30 January 2020. 


    He referred to keeping staff up to date on progress and had emailed all staff earlier that week. 


    The Head of Organisational Development, Elaine Pepper, added that a procurement exercise was undertaken to appoint Solace and five companies had been asked to quote.  She advised that Solace was a market leader in the recruitment field and had a good track record.  She explained that Solace would support the Council throughout the shortlisting and interviews and they also carried out initial interviews with feedback. 


    There was a query as to whether the Leader and Cabinet had given consideration to the type of candidate they wished to recruit to lead the Council.     


    The Leader advised that the Council needed a dynamic and experienced Chief Executive to be able to lead on  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.


Corporate Management team appointments pdf icon PDF 207 KB

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    Report of the Leader of the Council.


    The Leader requested the Committee’s approval on two senior management team appointments.  His report outlined proposals


    ·       To continue to manage the backfill interim arrangements whilst the recruitment to the Chief Executive post was in progress and looked to confirm the appointment of Harrinder Rai to the position of Interim Strategic Director – Growth


    ·       To make a fixed-term appointment of the Interim Head of Legal to Director of Law and Governance and thereby end the cost of an external contract


    The Interim Chief Executive supported the proposals and advised that Shahin Ismail was undergoing a constitution review and had reinforced governance in the authority.  He also referred to Harrinder Rai’s contribution to date informally acting-up in the role as exemplary and gave his full recommendation for both positions. 


    There was some discussion around issues related to Riverside flats, which pre-dated Mr Rai’s arrival with the authority, and the work he had undertaken to resolve matters.  As an aside to the discussion Members were advised that there was an inquiry in progress.


    With regard to backfilling Mr Rai’s housing responsibilities during the interim period, the Interim Chief Executive reported that he had had discussions with Mr Rai and had felt assured that the heads of service would be able to cover these areas of work.  He also added that additional capacity was available in the Assistant Chief Executive, Housing Delivery, who had previously acted as Interim Strategic Director, Growth but had now returned to his substantive post.


    It was noted that Paul Thomas, Interim Chief Executive, would return to his Strategic Director, Growth role once the new Chief Executive was in post.


    It was proposed that recommendation (a) be amended to reflect that the appointment be until the new Chief Executive was ‘in post’ rather than ‘appointed’.


    It was AGREED


    (1)  That the Employment Committee confirms the interim appointment of Harrinder Rai (Assistant Director – Housing) to the position of Interim Strategic Director – Growth with effect from 9 December 2019 until such time as a permanent Chief Executive is in post.


    (2)  That the Employment Committee confirms the appointment of Shahin Ismail (Interim Head of Legal Services and Monitoring Officer) to the role of Director of Law and Governance for a fixed term period of 24 months from 1 January 2020 with a review after 12 months.



Absence update pdf icon PDF 200 KB

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    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  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.


Work programme

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    The Leader explained that his vision was for this Committee to be influential on all HR matters and therefore a formal work programme was needed for consideration at each meeting, preferably in a table format.


    There was concern that there were only 4 meetings of the committee each year.  It was suggested that for the new municipal year, 6 meetings could be scheduled. 


    It was felt that staff were the Council’s most valuable resource being 75% of the total budget and therefore the Work Programme was a valuable tool to ensure the Council was getting the best out of this investment.


    The following was discussed and identified for the work programme: 


    ·       Staff survey – there was concern that the results came too late to members to be meaningful and almost at the time for the next survey. Therefore this was to be a standing agenda item on this Committee’s agenda

    ·       Return to work – it was felt this needed to be a 100% completion rate as this process provided protection for both employee and the Council

    ·       Review on staff training and development – to develop an understanding of how staff want to progress and look at other councils’ arrangements

    ·       Member development – update on the budget and how to support Members.  HR to be involved

    ·       Induction process for staff

    ·       Staff reward and recognition – process on how to recognise good service 

    ·       Employee benefits – what staff receive for working here

    ·       Mental health – regular updates as discussed previously in this meeting

    ·       Director target reviews

    ·       Chief Executive recruitment

    ·       Staff appraisals with performance targets

    ·       Restructure updates

    ·       Apprenticeships update

    ·       Planning review – this was added to ensure that the Committee understood the impact on the Council and staff at lower levels


    The Cabinet Member for Communities and HR explained that there was a significant workload for HR staff in this work programme and most of the items were already under discussion and being looked into.  He felt that much of it depended on the appointment of the new Chief Executive.  He felt there was a huge loyalty in the Council’s staff and with the appropriate support and development opportunities they performed well.  He referred to the reduction in general fund and that the Council would have to work more efficiently and deliver change but needed to take its workforce with it by ensuring they understood what the Council was doing and why.  He referred to current issues around recruitment in planning and retention of staff and that staff were the Council’s most valuable resource.  However to provide the HR support required to the Council and staff, he may need to request a further resource and would come back with a detailed report to the Committee should this be the case.


Close of meeting

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    The meeting was closed at 11.10 a.m.