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Agenda item

Work-based Development and Wellbeing

Report of the Executive Director, Resources



The Committee received a report of the Executive Director, Resources, containing an update on progress of the health and wellbeing, and learning and development elements of the Council’s Workforce and Organisational Development Strategy. 




In attendance for this item were Mark Bennett (Director of Human Resources and Customer Services) and Lynsey Linton (Head of Human Resources).




Mark Bennett reported that whilst a reasonable level of progress had been made in terms of the health and wellbeing, and learning and development elements of the Council’s Workforce and Organisational Development Strategy, which were considered the two main priorities for Human Resources, there was always a lot more work that could be undertaken.




Members of the Committee raised questions, and the following responses were provided:-




·             Following the 2017/18 sickness absence statistics, it had been agreed with the Council’s Executive Management Team that there was a greater organisational focus on employee absence in order to reduce levels of sickness absence.  A small team of Human Resources Advisers had been established to work with those Council services having higher rates of sickness absence, which included Repairs and Maintenance (Place), Customer Services (Resources) and Children’s Services (Place), and interventions were being targeted at such Services.  One such intervention included “day one reporting”, whereby employees going off on sickness absence were asked to report the absence to the Occupational Health Service, who then provided help and advice in connection with the absence.



·             With regard to more serious and/or longer-term incidents of sickness absence, which were likely to have a more adverse effect on colleagues, a Workplace Stress Risk Assessment would be undertaken, whereby a Human Resources officer would speak to the colleagues, and help the Service to address the identified area of concern.  It had been identified that there was a need for a more holistic approach in terms of intervention, as well as improved liaison between management and staff.  Whilst Human Resources were confident that necessary support was available for both the employee off on sickness leave, and those colleagues who were likely to be affected, it was not considered, however, that such support was always best targeted at present.  There was therefore a need to identify any specific issues, then target the support appropriately.




·             As a result of the higher than average rates of sickness absence in People Services, a specific piece of work was being undertaken in order to identify approximately £1 million savings in this regard. This work would involve Human Resources  working closely with managers in People Services to reduce sickness absence and agency spend.  People Services chose to do this as it had higher than average sickness absence rates. Early indications had showed that positive steps had been made.




·             There remain some issues regarding managers’ skills and confidence to deal with complex individual absence issues, and more broadly supporting staff wellbeing in the workplace.  Policies and procedures enable managers to use flexibility when dealing with sickness absence, but more could be done to support managers. 




·             Staff recruitment was now back in-house, and Human Resources had looked at employee lifecycle, which had highlighted the fact that the highest rates of sickness absence were prevalent amongst staff aged from 49 to 54.  Furthermore, a recent case study undertaken in the Parks and Countryside Service had identified higher rates of sickness absence, which was due to both the age of staff and a higher proportion of staff undertaking physical work.




·             There continued to be an emphasis on employing apprentices, in line with the Council’s agreed organisation strategy, and a Steering Group, comprising a number of former apprentices,  provided help and support to new apprentices.  The Steering Group also assisted in the Council’s aim to focus on the retention of existing apprentices, and not just appointing new starters.  The number of apprentices being employed by the Council had increased year on year.




·             Meetings had taken place with a number of equalities groups, with the aim of getting feedback from staff, in order to drive improvement in this area.




·             Work had continued to promote the completion of Personal Development Reviews (PDRs) in accordance with the ‘Time to Sit Down and Talk’ programme.  It was considered important that all members of staff had the opportunity to have a good quality conversation with their line manager as it could help with their future development, and, in some cases, their health and wellbeing.  PDRs were simple for managers to record, and 62% of staff now had completed reviews, which represented a large increase from two years ago.  The main focus over the last few years had been to drive the rates of completed PDRs up, and once this had happened, work would then be undertaken to assess the quality and effectiveness of such reviews.




·             Line managers were ultimately responsible for staff learning and development, and Human Resources would advise when required. 




RESOLVED: That the Committee:-




(a)      notes the contents of the report now submitted, together with the responses to the questions now raised;




(b)      thanks Mark Bennett and Lynsey Linton for attending the meeting, and responding to the questions raised; and




(c)      requests that this issue be placed on its Work Programme for 2019/20, and that the Executive Director, Resources,  attends a meeting during that Municipal Year, to provide a further update on Work-based Development and Wellbeing.


Supporting documents: