Agenda Item No. 9
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) - 24th June 2014
Joint Report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing and the Head of Human Resources
Sickness Absence Report Relating to Visible Services for the Period April 2013 - March 2014
Purpose of the Report
1. To provide sickness and associated information in respect of Visible Services for the financial year period April 2013 to March 2014.
1. That Members note the content of the report.
2. That sickness absence in the service area continues to be analysed, monitored and measures implemented to reduce the level of sickness absence.
Reasons for the Recommendations
1. To bring matters to the attention of Members of the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) in line with corporate objectives.
2. To assist the Service to achieve its sickness absence target, reduce the cost of sickness absence and to support and improve the wellbeing of the workforce.
3. This report has been compiled in response to the request made at the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) meeting on the 21 January 2014 for additional information in relation to sickness and associated issues within Visible Services. Further information was requested in relation to:
- the identification of types of illness;
- details of any work-related illness resulting in an insurance claim being made against the Council;
- information in relation to the health and safety training arrangements for employees; and
- the practicality of introducing mechanised processes to mitigate the risk to employees working in the Service area.
4. This report provides sickness absence information for the period April 2013 until March 2014 (inclusive) in respect of Visible Services only. It does not include Building Services or Housing Services.
Relevant Issues and Options
5. For the period 2012/13 there was an average of 245.38 FTE staff employed within Visible Services.
6. Based on the same period for the previous year (April 2012 - March 2013), there has been an increase in absence for the service from 14.49 to 15.03 days/shifts lost per FTE, an increase of 0.54 days per FTE.
7. During the course of the financial year 2013/14 there was a total of 3686.94 days absence within the Service. A little over 22% of all absence was short-term (817.94 days lost), accounting for 3.33 days/shifts lost per FTE and almost 78% was due to long-term absence (2869.00 days lost) which represents 11.69 days lost per FTE.
8. The figures above may include a number of staff who may have taken more than one period of absence during the financial year.
9. Appendix A demonstrates the age profile of employees within Visible Services. Currently there are 122 staff who are 50 years of age and over and 131 members of staff under 50 years of age.
10. Nearly 56% of days were lost by staff under the age of 50 (short term = 552.74 days lost; long term = 1509 days lost), and 44% of days were lost by staff who are 50 and over (short term = 265.20 days lost; long term = 1360 days lost). This is shown in Appendix B.
11. The main reason given for absence is 'Operations and Recovery' which accounts for 30.1% of the absence in the Service. This is followed closely by 'Other Musculoskeletal' (22.4%) and 'Stress' which accounts for 20.5%. This is shown in Appendix C.
12. The absence reason of 'Operations and Recovery' can be broken down into 65.70 short-term days lost (0.27 days per FTE) and 1,044 long-term days lost (4.25 days per FTE) over the financial year 2013/14.
13. There were no sickness absence cases in the reporting period that involved an insurance claim by any employees within the Service against the Council.
14. Industrial injury absences during 2013/14 amounted to 30 days lost; one being long term of 23 days and two being short term (3 and 4 days). On each occasion Health and Safety have been involved and appropriate action taken.
15. Managers within both the Service and the Directorate are actively following the Management of Attendance policy, by reviewing the monthly flagging report and addressing sickness issues, given the need to reduce the sickness and achieve the target. During the 2013/14 period, 6 employment contracts were ended due to sickness absence and in accordance with the Management of Attendance Policy. Whilst any terminations as a consequence of poor attendance are regrettable, this demonstrates that when necessary, such measures have and will continue to be used to assist in improving attendance figures.
16. It is recognised that the most significant area of concern within Visible Services is long term sickness absence that has been certified by a Doctor. Since September 2013, a monthly review of the top 50 cases (of long term sickness absence) in the Council have been conducted by the Head of Human Resources, Occupational Health Advisor, relevant Personnel Officer and Corporate Health and Safety Officer. Case conferences are also conducted on an individual case-by-case basis, depending on the nature, severity or length of absence. Both arrangements were introduced to facilitate the consideration of a range of interventions to reduce on-going absences and improve employee wellbeing.
17. Health and Safety (H&S) training arrangements remain available to manage 'Other Musculoskeletal', 'Stress' and to reduce the potential of industrial injury claims. The Director of Visible Services and Housing also meets with the trade union secretaries and the Principal Health and Safety Officer every month to review all health and safety incidents, for the previous month, and any days lost as a consequence. The actions taken by managers in such cases is considered and reviewed by all parties and individual service managers are able to be called to this meeting if it is felt that any interventions detailed are insufficient to achieve the improvements necessary.
18. Job specific induction training is provided by service areas. Certain Health and Safety training is provided in-house e.g. manual handling (MH). This is offered to all relevant employees (via line managers) in the form of a half day object handling course. The practical element of these courses are tailored to ensure they are job specific i.e. Waste, Parks, Highways etc. In addition to the MH training, particularly in Waste, competency assessments have been introduced. This enables supervisors following training to observe tasks being undertaken by staff to ensure they are completed safely and in line with the requirements of the MH Passport Scheme and hence meeting the Manual Handling Operations Regulations. MH training is refreshed, on average, every two years. Courses are held to meet the needs of any new starters or anybody requiring additional support e.g. as identified in a competency assessment.
19. Other training provided in-house includes: toolbox talks on Hand-arm Vibration (HAV) and Work at Height. All other Health and Safety training is bought in either by line managers or via Corporate Training e.g. Stress Awareness and Stress Management Training. This includes the completion of stress risk assessments.
20. The Council also undertakes regular health surveillance on relevant staff in order to manage certain health risks e.g. Noise (hearing tests), HAV (questionnaires), Asbestos (questionnaire and medical), respiratory (questionnaire and test) etc.
21. Mechanised processes are introduced via the risk assessment process. Risk assessments are in place for the various activities that employees undertake. The control measures are linked to the Hierarchy of Control i.e. Eliminate, Substitute, Engineering controls, Administrative Controls and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Engineering controls include the use of mechanised processes and there are a number of examples of such within Visible Services e.g. a Hiab on vehicles in Highways to assist with loading/unloading, kerb lifting, laying paving slabs etc; attachments to tractors to mechanise hedge cutting in Parks; hydraulic drum lifter in Fleet to lift oil drums (this was identified following MH training). Work is currently taking place to look at the practicalities of introducing a mechanical drain lifter. The risk assessment process involves the active engagement of employees to provide the opportunity for them to give feedback on any Health and Safety issues they may be experiencing.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
22. The incidence of high levels of absence has significant resource implications and places constraints on the continued delivery of high quality service provision and presents a significant financial burden on available financial resources.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
23. There are no sustainability and climate change implications directly arising from the content of this report.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
24. All legal implications including the Human Rights Act and Data Protection Act have been considered within the implementation of the policy provisions.
Crime and Disorder Implications
25. The Council's attendance levels have an impact on the Council's ability to deliver its crime and disorder initiatives.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
26. In progressing the Management of Attendance Policy the Council will remain compliant with its obligations under the Equality Act.
27. The Council will be unable to deliver corporate objectives without keeping absence levels to a minimum.
Policy Framework and Budget
28. The report is within the policy framework and budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
29. The Director of Visible Services and Housing continues to work with his Management team and with the trade unions to identify opportunities to improve attendance through the Directorate JCF and Health and Safety Group.
30. The Cabinet receive regular six monthly sickness absence reports which are also referred to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).
Appendix A - Age Profile within Visible Services
Appendix B - Comparison of days lost with age profile.
Appendix C - Top 3 most common reasons for absence within Visible Services
Miles Punter - Director of Visible & Housing Services
Adrian Unsworth - Operational Manager Human Resources 01446 709359
Housing and Visible Services Directorate Management Team
Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing