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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 28 November, 2014

 

Report of the Leader

 

Sickness Absence Report - April 2014 to September 2014

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To update Members of the Cabinet on the half-yearly sickness absence information for the period 1st April 2014 to the 30th September 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 Directorate targets are revised to include the percentage of staff who have transferred following implementation of the Corporate and Customer Services restructure as set out within Appendix A of this report.

4.         To continue to report sickness absence figures to Cabinet every 6 months.

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 reallocate the overall corporate sickness absence targets across relevant Directorates to reflect the changes of staffing levels following the Corporate and Customer Services restructure.

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

Background

5.         This report sets out the half-yearly sickness absence information for the period 1st April 2014 to 30th September 2014. It 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 same period in the previous year, 1st April 2013 to 30th September 2013, to assist performance monitoring of sickness absence over the two years and draw meaningful comparisons.

7.         The sickness absence for employees who were in Corporate and Customer Services for quarter 1 have been included in the relevant Directorate to which they transferred as part of the recent Directorate review. This is to allow for meaningful comparisons across the whole of the financial year 2014-15 and onwards. Further information can be found in Appendix A.

8.         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

9.         The overall average sickness absence rates (per FTE employee) over the period April to September in 2013 and 2014 are set out in the table below:

 

Actual absence

April - Sept 2013

Actual absence April - Sept 2014

Target

(half-year)

Average days/shifts lost (per FTE)

4.05

4.35

4.45

           

10.      The half-year figures for the period April to September 2014 indicate a slight increase from 4.05 to 4.35 days per full-time equivalent employee (FTE) in comparison to the figures for the same period in the previous year. This represents an increase in absence of 0.30 days lost per FTE employee.

11.      Members will be pleased to note, that overall sickness absence level for the half year ending 30th September 2014 remains below the target of 4.45 days/shifts per FTE (annual target of 8.90 days/shifts per FTE).

Sickness absence by Directorate

12.      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 B.

 

April to Sept 2013

April to Sept 2014

 

 

Directorate

Average days / shifts lost per FTE

Average days / shifts lost per FTE

Half-year target

Revised annual target

Social Services

5.42

6.31

5.46

10.92

Development Services

3.07

2.96

2.66

  5.31

Visible and Housing Services

6.93

6.42

5.87*

11.74*

Resources

3.21

4.00

4.29*

  8.57*

Learning and Skills

3.41

4.04

3.39*

  6.77*

Totals - excluding Schools

4.79

5.19

4.45

  8.90

Schools

3.27

3.53

 

 

Totals - including Schools

4.05

4.35

4.45

  8.90

*See point 7 and Appendix A

13.      There has been an increase in the sickness absence levels for corporate employees when compared to the same period last year (from 4.79 in 2013/14 to 5.19 days), and also an increase in absence levels within schools when comparing the same period (from 3.27 in 2013/2014 to 3.53 days) but overall the combined absence remain within target.  

14.      It will be noted that there has been an improvement with the reduction in absence levels in two of the Directorates (Development Services and Visible and Housing Services) when compared with the same period in 2013/14, and the absence outturn figures for Resources (4.00) were lower than the half-year target (4.29).

15.      The Directorates with the highest level of absence remains Visible and Housing Services (6.42 days per employee) and Social Services (6.31 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.

Reasons for absence

16.      The top four reasons for sickness absence during April and September 2014 continue to be stress (31%), operations and recovery (19%), musculoskeletal disorders (13%) and viral infections (12%).

17.      Viral infections were recorded as the top reason for short-term intermittent absence (27% of all short-term sickness absence), followed by stomach ailments (14%) and musculoskeletal disorders (13%). In respect of long term absence, stress accounted for 38% of absence, operations and recovery (22%) and musculoskeletal disorders (13%) were recorded as the top three reasons for absence.

18.      Absence due to musculoskeletal disorders remains the primary reason for absence in the Directorate of Visible Services and Housing (28% of all absence). This is potentially reflective of the nature of the work undertaken (building maintenance, cleaning, gardening, refuse collection) and the risk factors associated with manual and physical work. There is a continued emphasis on manual handling training and appropriate risk assessments within the Directorate.

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

Responding to absence

20.      Members will be aware of the Council’s approach to proactively promote health and wellbeing. The flu vaccination scheme has been extremely popular this year, with appointments continuing to be booked throughout November and December. The Vale of Glamorgan is the only authority in Wales to offer the flu vaccination scheme, to minimise the levels of sickness absence due to seasonal flu.

21.      Stress-related absence continues to account for the majority of the days lost in the reporting period (April to September 2014) with over 5,000 days lost. It remains difficult to determine the cause of stress absence, as it may be home-related, work-related or a combination of the two. Employees continue to be automatically referred to occupational health for advice at the first notification of stress or anxiety and offered counselling support.

22.      Sickness flagging reports continue to be produced for 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.

23.      There continues to be an ongoing emphasis placed on conducting and completing return to work (RTW) interviews. These provide the framework for discussions between the manager and employee to consider reasons for the absence, explore underlying issues or trends and to identify any adaptations or supportive interventions where appropriate to promote and sustain the employees' return to work.

Absence in wider comparison

24.      Absence levels within the Council are slightly higher than the levels identified in the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Absence Management Report (2014). This report found that a mean average of 7.4 days were lost per employee per year, with 8.0 days lost per employee reported in Local Government. This is in comparison with an average of 8.75 days lost per FTE in 2013/14 in the Council and 4.35 days year to date (April to September 2014).

25.      It is worth noting 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.

26.      The CIPD (2014) also reported that larger organisations tend 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 10.1 days lost per employee. This is higher than the absence rate within the Council of 8.75 days lost per FTE in 2013/14 and in excess of the 4.35 days during the half year period (April to September 2014).

27.      The workforce benchmarking feedback (collated by the Local Government Data Unit and Welsh Local Government Association) reported that the average sickness absence for all local authorities in Wales was 9.7 working days/shifts lost per FTE in 2013/14 (a reduction from 10.2 working days lost in 2012/13). This is higher than the absence rate reported for the Council in 2013/14 (8.75 days lost) and the current financial year to date (April to September, 4.35 days lost).

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

28.      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

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

30.      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

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

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

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

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

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

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

37.      Corporate Resources

Background Papers                                                                

Appendix A - Revised sickness absence targets due to the Corporate and Customer Services Review

Appendix B - Breakdown of Directorate absence by Services (April 2014 - Sept 2014)

Appendix C - Top three 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