Agenda Item No. 9 

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting - 2 July 2018

 

Report of the Leader

 

Sickness Absence Report - April 2017 to March 2018

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To update Members of the Cabinet on the sickness absence statistics for the 12 month period from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.

Recommendations

  1. That the report and the full yearly sickness absence figures provided in Appendix A be noted.
  2. That Members note progress in relation to the action plan as attached in Appendix B.
  3. That the report be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Performance & Resources) 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 inform Members of the Cabinet of the progress in relation to the agreed management of attendance action plan.
  3. To enable the Scrutiny Committee to maintain a continued focus on the management of sickness absence throughout all services of the Council.

Background

  1. The levels of sickness absence within the Council are reported to Cabinet every six months. The report is part of a wider performance monitoring framework and improvement plan as originally approved by Cabinet in July 2015.
  2. This report sets out the sickness absence information for the period 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018, including corporate and schools employees. It also includes details of sickness absence figures for the period 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017 and external data for comparative purposes.
  3. This report acknowledges the joint work and commitment of all managers, employees and trade union colleagues in relation to the continual management of sickness absence.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The overall sickness absence rates [i.e. working time lost per Full Time Equivalent (FTE) over the period April to March are set out in the table below with comparative data for the same period in previous years in 2015 and 2016. 

 

April 2015 - Mar 2016

  April 2016 - Mar 2017

  April 2017 - Mar 2018

  Annual Target

Total days/shifts lost (per FTE)

9.56

8.80

10.14

8.90

         
  1. The total days/shifts lost per FTE for the period April 2017 to March 2018 indicate an increase in absence levels in comparison with 2017 (from 8.80 to 10.14 days lost per FTE which represents an overall increase of 1.34 of a day lost per FTE). 

Sickness absence by Directorate

  1. A summary of absence levels within each Directorate is set out below. A breakdown of absence in each Service area is included within Appendix A.

Directorate

April 2016 to Mar 2017

 April 2017 to Mar 2018

 

 

 

Total days / shifts lost per FTE

 

Total days / shifts lost per FTE

   Annual

Target

Social Services

11.32

14.81

11.60

Environment & Housing

  9.98

11.57

11.70

MD and Resources

  6.45

8.69

  5.80

Learning and Skills

  8.15

10.15

  8.30

Totals - excluding Schools

  9.27

11.62

  8.90

Schools

  8.29

8.59

  7.90

Totals - including Schools

  8.80

10.14

  8.90


 
  1. Overall, all directorates have seen an increase in absence but in relation to the annual target, all directorates have increased except for Environment and Housing which is below the annual target. Collectively, schools also show a slight increase and remain above target.
  2. The overall increase in absence levels is disappointing given the range of positive measures that have been put in place and particularly the increased scrutiny of absence across all directorates by the Council's Corporate Management Team.
  3. The increase is, to a degree, an understandable reflection of the volume of change and transformation that is being managed across all service areas and the significant increase in flu related absence across the United Kingdom in 2017/18.
  4. The increase in sickness absence levels is also something which has been experienced across the majority of other Welsh local authorities in 2017/18.
  5. The performance management approach to this issue will continue (and be intensified) into 2018/2019, alongside the range of measures as set out in paragraphs 21 to 35 and the action plan as attached at Appendix B.

Reasons for absence

  1. The reasons for sickness absence across the authority (including in Schools) over the period April 2017 to March 2018 are listed below, along with a comparison of the previous period (April 2016 to March 2017).

 

Absence reason

 

April 2016 to March 2017

 

April 2017 to March 2018

1

Stress

 

23.4%

 

29.2%

2

Viral Infection

 

17.1%

 

18.0%

3

Operations and Recovery

 

18.2%

 

16.3%

4

Other Musculoskeletal

 

10.2%

 

11.1%

5

Stomach Ailments

 

7.1%

 

7.1%

6

Back Problems

 

4.6%

 

5.0%

7

Chest Problems

 

4.2%

 

3.2%

8

Headache, Migraine, etc

 

4.9%

 

2.7%

9

Undisclosed

 

3.7%

 

2.3%

10

Pregnancy Related

 

2.2%

 

1.8%

11

Heart Problems

 

1.0%

 

1.3%

12

Genito-Urinary Problems

 

2.1%

 

1.2%

13

RTA/Wiplash

 

1.2%

 

0.5%

14

Not Recorded

 

N/a

 

0.2%

           
  1. Members will note from Appendix A that 69% of all absence in April 2017 to March 2018 was categorised as long term (i.e. over 4 weeks in duration) compared with 31% short term/intermittent absence. This shows a slight increase in comparison to the same period last year where 66% of all absence was categorised as long term compared with 34% short term.
  2. Stress continues to be the most common reason for sickness absence in the Council and it can be seen that the ratio of sickness absence relating to stress has increased from 23.4% to 29.2%.
  3. Members will be aware that in all cases of stress or anxiety, employees are automatically referred to occupational health for advice, offered counselling support and managers are offered training and support in completing stress risk assessments.
  4. Going forward the Council will seek to distinguish between the recording of 'work related' and 'non-work related' stress. This will assist with understanding the reason(s) for the absence as well as looking at ways to support the health and welfare of employees.
  5. The Council's Employee Assistance Programme (Care First) continues to be promoted throughout the Council. Further information on this initiative is set out in paragraphs 23 to 24 of this report.
  6. A Directorate breakdown of the four most common absence reasons, as shown in the full list in paragraph 12, is set out below:

 

Environment and Housing Services

 

Learning & Skills

 

Resources

 

Schools

 

Social Services

Stress

1

25%

 

1

21%

 

1

30%

 

1

29%

 

1

38%

Viral Infection

4

12%

 

2

20%

 

2

22%

 

2

22%

 

2

16%

 

Operations and Recovery

2

22%

 

3

19%

 

3

12%

 

3

15%

 

3

15%

 

Other Musculoskeletal

3

16%

 

4

14%

 

4

10%

 

5

8%

 

4

11%

 
                                 
  1. For long-term absences, the top three reasons follow the same pattern as last year; Stress remains the main reason, followed by Operations and Recovery and Other Musculoskeletal. Details are set out in the table below:-
 

Absence reason

 

April 2016 to March 2017

 

April 2017 to March 2018

1

Stress

 

30.4%

 

37.8%

2

Operations and Recovery

 

23.6%

 

20.9%

3

Other Musculoskeletal

 

11.3%

 

12.1%

  1. Viral infections remain the main reason recorded for short-term absences, followed by Stomach Ailments and Stress as outlined below:-
 

Absence reason

 

April 2016 to March 2017

 

April 2017 to March 2018

1

Viral Infection

 

40.2%

 

43.8%

2

Stomach Ailments

 

12.4%

 

11.8%

3

Stress

 

8.94%

 

10.2%

 

Performance Management

  1. As indicated above, an action plan for improving the management of attendance continues to be monitored and reviewed. The momentum behind this action plan has been maintained over this financial year and updates are set out in Appendix B.
  2. The main elements of the action plan focus on a range of performance management measures as set out below:
  • A full report containing the breakdown of sickness absence levels per FTE across all Directorates and services continues to be reviewed by CMT each month and any required action is taken.
  • All Directorates continue to review absence levels within Directorate Management Teams on a monthly basis and in accordance with a service based action plan.
  • The focus on absence has, over the last year been based on the scrutiny of priority absence reports within each directorate and service area. This has been helpful in focusing attention and support on particular absence cases.
  • Managers and supervisors continue to receive sickness flagging reports on a monthly basis from HR Employee Services.
  • Long-term sickness absence cases continue to be dealt with on an individual case management basis. Human Resource Business Partners work closely with managers to maintain communication with employees, along with Occupational Health, to support employees' wellbeing and their return to work.
  • The Head of Human Resources continues to hold a dedicated review of the top 50 on-going long term absence management cases from across the Council on a monthly basis.

Employee Assistance Programme

  1. The Care First Employee Assistance Programme remains available to all employees and continues to be publicised within the workplace since its launch in June 2016. Quarterly reports have been received on a scheduled basis and an update of the service is shown in Appendix D.
  2. The service continues to be promoted through staff circulars on Staffnet, via Occupational Health and as part of the promotion of the Staff Charter. This service is also promoted as part of the new 'Welcome to the Vale' induction programme and as a key feature of corporate health fairs and manager briefing sessions.

Positive Health Promotion

  1. Work is continuing to develop positive health support mechanisms in line with the action plan (Appendix B). A summary of developments is as follows:
  • Approximately 1,300 vaccinations have been administered to employees during October and November 2017 alongside a number of positive health events. A health fair took place in October 2017 for employees based at the Civic Offices and was extremely well attended. This will be an annual event.
  • A tool-kit has been developed in relation to stress to assist managers in responding to one of the top reasons for absence.  This tool-kit now forms part of the revised Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy that is currently going through a consultation process.
  • The Occupational Health (OH) service is now in its permanent location in the basement of the Civic Offices.  The service is supported by an OH Manager, OH Nurse, two OH Doctors (sessional basis) and administrative support (1 FTE). 

Managing Attendance at Work Policy Update

  1. Members will recall a new Managing Attendance at Work Policy was implemented on 1st October 2016.
  2. The policy continues to reinforce the responsibilities of all managers in the management of attendance, in particular their responsibility to support employees who are unable to attend work as well as to underline the need for both early intervention and performance management. 
  3. Training and support on the policy has been provided to all new managers along with access to refresher sessions to support consistency of the application of the policy and this will continue to be provided throughout the 2018/19 financial year.
  4. A review of the Management of Attendance Policy (and compliance with it) took place with the recognised trade unions in November 2017. The half yearly increase in absence levels for Quarter 1 and 2 was also considered as part of that review and a number of agreed changes have been implemented. A further review will be conducted in October of this year.

Wider Engagement Strategy

  1. Members will be aware of the continuing engagement activity that is taking place as part of the Council's Staff Charter. Members will be aware that the Charter sets out the mutual expectations of staff and managers in a "reshaped" working environment.
  2. Progress continues to be made in implementing the 15 supporting actions and commitments within the Staff Charter.
  3. Over the period 2017/18 a particular focus has been placed on development work in five work-stream areas all of which are sponsored by individual Chief Officers. Details are as set out below:-
 

Work-stream

      

Sponsor

1

Skills Development

 

Head of Finance

2

Recognition

 

Managing Director

3

Communication

 

Head of Performance

4

Innovation

 

Director of Environment & Housing

5

Management Development

 

Head of Human Resources

       
  1. The effectiveness of the staff engagement strategy is measured as part of the Staff Survey which was run for the second time during October and November 2017. The results were presented to Cabinet in March 2018 and Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee in April 2018. Members will recall the increase in response to the Survey (from 48% to 57%) and an increase in overall positivity from 71% to 72%.
  2. Members will clearly appreciate the importance of the Staff Charter (and related staff engagement initiatives) in relation to the impact on attendance and contribution levels of employees across all services.

Absence in wider comparison

  1. Information from the Welsh Local Government Association has been compiled for the financial year 2017/18 to be able to compare with other authorities within Wales.
  2. Appendix C shows a breakdown of the total days lost per FTE for all Welsh authorities. For 2017/18, the Vale of Glamorgan Council had the eleventh lowest absence rate (10.1 days per FTE) across Wales. The average absence rate across all reporting welsh local authorities is still to be finalised, but is likely to be in the region of 10.6 days for 2017/18.
  3. The latest CIPD survey on absence management suggests that the average number of days lost in local government is 10.5 sickness days per employee.

Summary

  1. Members will appreciate the importance of the 'managing attendance' agenda and the need to retain a robust focus on both performance management and staff care and well-being. This will continue and be intensified throughout 2018/19.
  2. The increase in absence levels during 2017/18 is disappointing and particularly given the focus that has been placed on this agenda during the year. The increase on flu related absence across the United Kingdom and the increase in absence levels across the majority of Councils across Wales is contextually important but does not wholly mitigate the disappointment.
  3. Since finalising the report for 2017/18, data that has been produced shows that the sickness rate for April 2018 is the lowest figure during the last 4 years. It is appreciated that this is only one month's data, but may indicate that the expected improvements in 2018/19 will be realised.  Monitoring will continue throughout the year and any issues addressed with HR and Senior Managers.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. 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 and the implementation of the Reshaping Services Programme.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. All legal implications including the Human Rights Act and Data Protection Act have been considered within the implementation of policy provisions and as part of the recent review of the policy.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

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

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

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

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Corporate Performance & Resources

Background Papers                                                                  

Appendix A - Breakdown of absence by Services (April 17- March 18)

Appendix B - Management of Attendance Action Plan

Appendix C - Welsh Local Authority sickness rank order 2017/18 (Anonymised)

Appendix D - The Care First Employee Assistance Programme Report

Contact Officer

Laithe Bonni - Operational Manager Human Resources 01446 709214

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer

Reuben Bergman, Head of Human Resources and Organisational Development