Agenda item

Attendance Management.


The Committee considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which provided on update on the Council’s overall position on sickness absence, as at the end of June 2022 and the subsequent verbal update, as at the end of September 2022, provided during the meeting. A copy of the report, marked ‘Agenda Item 10‘, is filed with these minutes.


In introducing the report, the Director presented absence data for the period July to September 2022 (quarter 2). Members noted that overall sickness across the Council had slightly decreased in quarter 2 although it had slightly increased in the Adults and Communities and Public Health Departments. An overall reduction in absence had been thought to be a result of a focus on first line prevention and increased support available to staff. The Director explained that the increase experienced in Adults and Communities could be due to structural changes in the Department and that the 12-month full time equivalent (FTE) figure would appear low until data for the new structure had been reported on for 12 months.


Arising from discussions, the following points were raised:


      i.        Stress, depression and mental health was the main reason for staff absence. Managers would often be aware that an employee had been experiencing difficulties before an official diagnosis was received from a GP and would offer support and guidance through a range of tools available to them, to support the employee and mitigate the need for absence from work where possible. Stress, depression and mental health was often reported together on a sickness note by the GP and individuals often found it difficult to distinguish between stress, depression and mental health themselves. The Director explained that discussions had taken place to understand whether the illnesses could be classified separately, and whether the cause was work-related or home-related issues, although it was recognised that this would be challenging to do.


    ii.        Managers were aware that some staff may have worked at home through minor illness, where they chose to do so. However, the Director assured members that the Council never encouraged employees to continue working where they were seriously unwell. Managers supported employees to work flexibly where that had been deemed to be the most appropriate course of action.


   iii.        Regarding the Council’s recruitment and retention strategy, the Director explained that the Council had promoted the benefits of working for the organisation, such as a positive culture, good learning and development opportunities and a good standard of management support. Members noted that Market Premia had been applied to some roles where necessary, but in a balanced way so as to protect future financial commitments. It was acknowledged that some employees would leave the Council to accept higher paying opportunities or to consider agency work. The Director advised members that each department would have its own strategy on recruitment and retention.


   iv.        The 2022/23 pay award had awarded a flat rate to all employees although it was acknowledged that a percentage increase would usually be applied which would result in larger increases for some staff. The Council continued to pay consideration to staff on lower salaries and issues such as the increasing cost of living, inflation and higher salaries in other organisations locally, particularly in the private sector, would need to be considered when negotiating future pay awards.


    v.        Members’ concern that some staff may have experienced stress, depression and mental health as a result of feeling isolated whilst working at home, was addressed by the Director who explained that there had been no evidence in the sickness absence monitoring to suggest that this was the case. Managers had been strongly encouraged to monitor and manage this carefully. The Council’s Ways of Working programme aimed to provide a hybrid working pattern for employees and managers provided support and flexibility to enable employees to work in the workplace and at home, to suit the needs of the organisation and also their own preference.


Members noted that the Council was aware that a number of employees were struggling with the increase in the cost of living and the potential impact on their wellbeing. The Director explained that advice and guidance was available through the Council’s intranet, on warm homes, claiming weekly payments for travel expenses and signposting to credit unions and mental health support. Assurance was given that employees would be offered support and guidance for mental wellbeing.


Following a request from members, it was agreed that the report on attendance management presented at the next Employment Committee would include a comparison with sickness absence data from other organisations. It was explained that it would be challenging to provide such a comparison with the private sector due to differences in structure and variations in sickness absence policy. The Director explained that the sickness absence had been comparable to that reported by other upper tier authorities. The Council offered a supportive sickness absence policy but would work to minimise the risk of it being exploited.




a)    That the update provided on the Council’s overall position on sickness absence within this report as at the end of June 2022, and the verbal update to the end of September provided during the meeting, be noted.


b)    That the Attendance Management report presented to the next Committee meeting would include a comparison to similar organisations.


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