Agenda item

Sickness Absence Update Report


The Committee received a report of the Head of Human Resources on the work being done to reduce and manage sickness absence.


Members noted some key findings:


1.      Comparison with other local authorities was difficult due to the implementation of different policies across organisations.

2.      Health and wellbeing of staff was a priority and a new service provider had been commissioned to supply integrated occupational health, employee assistance and physiotherapy provision to support requirements from April 2021.

3.      Managing absence was an ongoing priority for teams and managers.

4.      The highest percentage of reasons for sickness absence were Stress, Anxiety and Depression (31.6%), and Musculoskeletal (11.6%).

5.      Absence rates for different employee groups was proportionately high for disabled employees and low for employees aged 16-24. The age profile of the workforce was a factor in looking at overall picture.


In discussion and in response to Members questions the following points were raised:


1.      It was difficult to look at longer term trends due to the significant events and impact of the past year.

2.      The percentage of working days lost in the Council due to stress, anxiety and depression were of particular concern and it was understood that this may be impacted by mental health receiving a greater focus and an increased willingness of staff to report mental health concerns. Members felt it would be useful to see how the Council compared to other authorities and sectors for reporting information.

3.      Working days lost for black and minority ethnic employees and lower wage women was of concern and there may be historical reasons as well as the current impact of Covid to consider.

4.      The Workforce Strategy had employed targeted interventions using local organisations such as Nilari to support black, Asian and minority ethnic staff, the introduction of mental health first aiders, and the introduction of disability champions in collaboration with the Disabled Colleagues Network working directly with senior leaders.  Action: The Head of HR to circulate further details regarding the various interventions.

5.      Members raised that the Bradford factor had been used in several organisations as a tool to clarify the data around duration of absence, and it would be beneficial to understand whether the data referred to single day absences or longer periods.

6.      It was confirmed that Human Resources Policy mandated return-to-work interviews after a sickness absence and was considered an important tool to support a dynamic workforce.  Member’s questioned whether it was possible to measure adherence to the policy and confirm how many had been carried out.  Action: The Human Resources Business advisor to progress.

7.      Members sought assurances that sickness absence data was not being skewed due to staff who may not request sick leave due to working from home.  It was noted that staff could work in a different way when working from home which might negate the need for requesting a sickness absence.

8.      The introduction of Health and wellbeing plans was a useful management tool to help managers identify support needs that may have been lacking in the past.  The process had been promoted well with colleagues and was designed to build managers capability and enable structured conversation.  It was noted that it might take time for the process to be fully embedded in teams and that it may not be appropriate for all staff.


Resolved - That the report and the work being done to reduce and manage sickness absence be noted.

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