The Overview and Scrutiny Committee considers the agenda report and its four appendices and is requested to consider the following recommendation:
That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee reviews the current position regarding sickness absence within Chichester District Council and the proposed actions as set out in paras 5.1 to 5.5 of the agenda report.
This item was presented by Mr Mildred. Mr Radcliffe was also present.
Mr Mildred summarised the report with particular reference to sections 3, 4 and 5. He also circulated 2016/17 benchmarking figures from the LGA Workforce Survey. He explained that there were many reasons why the level of sickness absence appeared high. Notably, following the transfer of Westgate staff the figures had increased as the Westgate staff had always averaged lower sickness absence. It can also be difficult to compare results with other local authorities as the council has an in-house Depot where others have outsourced. Due to the nature of the manual work at the Depot its staff often have higher levels of sickness absence. Mr Radcliffe added that the figures for smaller teams are often skewed if there is one long term sickness case.
Mr Mildred emphasised that the approach to sickness absence moving forwards would be more personalised. He explained that currently sickness is recorded on the online HR system and in some cases it was possible that there had been a lack of face to face discussion with the manager on return to work. In addition (where appropriate) resilience will now be tested at job interview stage.
The Absence Management Policy is to be rewritten and the new policy will set out clearly the expectations for both employees and managers. New triggers for welfare meetings and formal cautions are to be set and will help improve consistency of application. Methods of notification of sickness and back to work interviews will also be prescribed in the policy, again improving consistency of application. The corporate Stress Risk Assessment procedure is also being updated and will focus on personalised wellbeing plans to ensure that the council is doing all it can support employees and reduce stress related absence.
Mr Mildred emphasised that the council is already proactively managing sickness and the formal management processes have resulted in several dismissals each year in recent years.
The Committee received answers to questions including the following:
· Why has there been a rise in the average number of sickness absence days over the last six years compared to the Office of National Statistics downward trend? The figures for the Office of National Statistics include those who are self-employed who are more likely to continue to work through illness compared to an employee who may be signed off by a doctor and therefore unable to return to the workplace as quickly. The council has experienced a significant growth in the amount of long term sickness in that six year period.
The Committee felt it would be appropriate to receive a progress update in six month’s time.
1. That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee notes the current position regarding sickness absence within Chichester District Council and the proposed actions as set out in paragraphs 5.1 to 5.5 of the agenda report.
The Committee took a short break.