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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 16 June, 2014

 

Report of the Leader

 

Sickness Absence Report - April 2013 to March 2014

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To update Members of the Cabinet on the sickness absence information for the full financial year from April 2013 to March 2014.

Recommendations

1.         That the report and the sickness absence outturn provided in Appendix A be noted.

2.         That the report be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) for consideration.

3.         That the absence target for the current and future years remain the same as those set for last year 2013 /2014 (8.9 days per employee).

4.         That a report be submitted to Cabinet every 6 months, to report on the half-yearly sickness absence figures and enable members to monitor progress and raise any issues for consideration.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To bring matters to the attention of Members of the Cabinet in line with corporate objectives.

2.         To enable the Scrutiny Committee to maintain a continued focus on the management of sickness absence throughout all services of the Council.

3.         To help provide a clear focus on sickness absence management whilst acknowledging the increasingly difficult financial climate and associated challenges facing local government.

4.         To provide Members with the opportunity to review sickness absence in relation to the Management of Absence policy and compare outturn against set targets, on a half-yearly basis.

Background

5.         This report sets out the sickness absence figures for the full financial year 2013/14 and covers both corporate employees and those employed directly by schools. The outturn figures have been measured against the agreed targets for the financial year.

6.         The report also includes details of comparative sickness absence figures for the previous year, 2012/13, to assist performance monitoring of sickness absence over the two years.

7.         This report acknowledges the work and commitment of all managers and employees in relation to the continual management of sickness absence.

Relevant Issues and Options

8.         The overall average sickness absence rates (per FTE employee) and percentage of working time lost per FTE over each financial year are set out in the table below:

2012/13

2013/14

Target

Average days/shifts lost (per FTE)

8.70

8.75

8.90

Percentage of time lost (per FTE)

3.3%*

3.3%*

            *see paragraph 12

 

9.         The total figures for 2013/14 indicate a slight increase on last year's total absence figures, from 8.70 to 8.75 days per full-time equivalent employee (FTE). This represents an increase in absence of 0.05 days lost per FTE employee.

10.      Members will note however, that overall absence levels have come in under the target of 8.90 days/shifts per FTE.

11.      There has been a decrease in the absence levels for corporate employees (from 10.24 in 2012/13 to 9.85 days) compared with a small increase in absence levels within schools (from 7.05 to 7.60 days).

12.      The percentage of time lost (per FTE) is based on the total number of working days lost over the year divided by the total number of days that could have been worked by all employees over the same period. The difference between average days lost through sickness absence is low (0.05 days between 2012/13 and 2013/14) and this accounts for the percentage of time lost remaining the same over both periods.

Absence by Directorate

13.      A summary of the absence within each Directorate is set out below. A further breakdown of absence in each Service area is included within Appendix A.

          2012/13

          2013/14

Directorate

Average days / shifts lost per FTE

% of lost time by FTE

Average days / shifts lost per FTE

% of lost time by FTE

Target (for each  year)

Corporate and Customer Services

7.57

2.9%

6.84

2.6%

8.48

Social Services

13.71

5.3%

11.72

4.5%

10.92

Development Services

5.51

2.1%

5.14

2.0%

5.31

Visible and Housing Services

12.24

4.7%

12.95

4.9%

11.47

Resources

5.23

2.0%

6.15

2.3%

7.2

Learning and Skills

9.87

3.8%

8.94

3.4%

6.66

Totals - excluding Schools

10.24

3.9%

9.85

3.8%

8.9

Schools

7.05

2.7%

7.6

2.9%

Totals - including Schools

8.7

3.3%*

8.75

3.3%*

8.9

          * see paragraph 12

 

14.      It will be noted that there has been an improvement in absence levels in four of the six Directorates, when compared with 2012/13. The most marked improvement being in Social Services, where there has been a 15% reduction.

15.      Absence outturn figures with three of the Directorates (Corporate and Customer Services, Resources and Development Services) have been lower than the agreed targets for 2013/14.

16.      The Directorates with the highest level of absence remains Visible and Housing Services (at 12.95 days per employee) and Social Services (at 11.72 days per employee). Both Directorates have a significant number of front line employees with employees who undertake manual and physical work and therefore have a higher level of exposure to health risks than office based employees.

17.      A more detailed analysis of sickness absence in Visible Services is currently being prepared and will be presented at a future Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).

Reasons for absence

18.      A detailed breakdown of the reasons for sickness absence is set out in Appendix B of this report. Members will note that the top four reasons for absence continue to be stress (24.38%), operation and recovery (19.81%), viral infections (16.26%) and musculoskeletal disorders (13.31%).

19.      Stress-related absence accounted for over 8,000 days lost in 2013/14. Whilst this is a concern, it should be noted that the causes of such absence have been both home-related and work-related (or in some instances a combination of the two). In all cases, employees are automatically referred to occupational health for advice and offered counselling support. In addition, the Council continue to promote and run stress awareness training for both managers and employees.

20.      The next two most common reasons for absence in 2013/14 were recorded as operations and recovery (nearly 20% of all absence) and viral infections (over 16% of all absence), with viral infections being the top reason for short-term intermittent absence.

21.      Absence due to musculoskeletal disorders is the highest reason for absence in Visible and Housing Services (28.59% of all absences in this Directorate). This is potentially reflective of the particular occupational groups (building cleaning, gardening, refuse collection) and the risk factors associated with manual and physical work. A significant emphasis is placed on manual handling training within the Directorate and appropriate risk assessments.

22.      A representation of the top four reasons for absence by Directorate is set out in Appendix C .

Responding to absence

23.      Members will be aware of the Council’s approach to proactively promote health and wellbeing to reduce the likelihood of employees becoming unwell (e.g. by offering the flu vaccination) and reactive interventions (e.g. adaptations to work station, change in work pattern) to reduce the amount of time that employees are absent from work through sickness. Any reduction in sickness absence will, in most circumstances, result in lower costs to the Council.

24.      A range of supportive interventions are available and applied throughout the Council irrespective of whether the sickness absence is short or long term. These include occupational health, employee counselling service and funded/part funded treatments, assessments and investigatory interventions.

25.      Sickness flagging reports are produced for all managers across all Services on a monthly basis and Personnel Officers continue to work closely with managers using these to illustrate employee absence patterns and trigger any necessary action/intervention as appropriate. The Head of Human Resources also has a dedicated monthly review of the top 50 ongoing absence management cases.

26.      A critical step in absence management is the return to work interview. There continues to be an ongoing emphasis placed on conducting and completing the combined return to work (RTW) interviews and sickness notification forms. These provide the framework for discussions between the manager and employee to consider reasons for the absence, explore any underlying issues or trends and moreover to identify any adaptations or supportive interventions where appropriate to promote and sustain the employees' return to work.

Absence in wider comparison

27.      Absence levels within the Council are comparable with the levels identified in the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Absence Management Report (2013). This report found that an average of 3.8% of working time was lost through sickness absence which exceeds the 3.3% lost time within the Council.

28.      The CIPD's Absence Management Report (2013) reported as a mean average that 8.6 days were lost per employee per year; this is in comparison with an average of 8.75 days lost per FTE in 2013/14 in the Council. It is worth noting however, that the CIPD’s measure is by employee (or headcount) whereas the measure used at the Council (and all other local authorities in Wales) for comparison purposes is FTE, which is a smaller figure to produce an average.

29.      Furthermore, the same report (CIPD 2013) stated that Public Services had a mean average of 9.1 days lost per employee and Local Government had a mean average of 9.0 days lost per employee. Clearly, the Council has performed favourably with both of these comparative measures.

30.      The CIPD (2013) also reported that larger organisations in general have a tendency to have higher levels of absence than smaller ones, regardless of sector. They reported that organisations with more than 5,000 employees (such as the Council) have a mean average sickness absence rate of 9.3 days lost per employee which is  higher than within the council..

31.      The workforce benchmarking feedback ("Measuring Up - Workforce 2012-13" published by the Local Government Data Unit and Welsh Local Government Association) reported that the average sickness absence for all local authorities in Wales was 10.2 working days/shifts lost per FTE in 2012/13, which is far higher than the absence rate reported for the Council in both 2012/13 (8.7 days lost) and 2013/14 (8.75 days lost).

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

32.      The incidence of high levels of absence has significant resource implications and places constraints on the continued delivery of high quality service provision. The need to continue to maintain reasonable levels of absence will be important as the Council responds to ongoing financial pressures.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

33.      There are no sustainability and climate change implications directly arising from the content of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

34.      All legal implications including the Human Rights Act and Data Protection Act will have been considered within the implementation of policy provisions.

Crime and Disorder Implications

35.      There are no crime and disorder implications directly arising from the content of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

36.      In progressing the Management of Attendance Policy the Council will remain compliant with its obligations under the Equality Act.

Corporate/Service Objectives

37.      The Council will be unable to deliver corporate objectives without keeping absence levels to a minimum.

Policy Framework and Budget

38.      This report is a matter for the Executive decision by the Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

39.      All Chief Officers are aware of the absence figures within their respective sections.

40.      The overall sickness absence figures are reported quarterly through the Corporate Performance Indicators.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

41.      Corporate Resources

Background Papers

Appendix A - Breakdown of Directorate absence by Services (April 2013 - March 2014)

Appendix B - The reasons for absence shown in descending order of frequency of occurrences (April 2013 - March 2014)

Appendix C - Top four reasons for absence by Directorate

 

Contact Officer

Adrian Unsworth - Operational Manager Human Resources 01446 709359

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer:

Siân Davies, Managing Director

 

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