Agenda item

Use of Agency Staff

The report updates the Committee on the Council’s progress towards getting better value from its use of agency staff.


To note the report for information.


The Committee received a report of the Interim Service Director Human Resources, Change and Communications and considered the public forum statements submitted by GMB and Unite in conjunction with this item. The report updated the Committee on the Council’s progress towards getting better value from its use of agency staff. The Committee was asked to note the report.


[Sandra Farquharson joined the meeting and introductions were made].


The HR Business Partner summarised the significant issues in the report. In response to members questions the following points were raised:


  1. It was noted that there was a role for agency staff within an employer of the Council’s size. There was agreement that long-term agency staff (eg. those in post for 12 months or more) should be on employment contracts with the Council direct. A member commented that employing agency staff for more than 52 weeks was poor employment practice. Concern was expressed that the Council should not make permanent staff redundant whilst employing long-term agency staff as it did not make financial sense.


  1. It was noted that action had been taken by the Council to reduce agency spend. It was also noted that the new tax regime from April could see specialist managers employed on fixed term contracts rather than through off-payroll means, which could result in reduced costs.


  1. Members referred to Para.9 in the report and noted that the new law could have a huge effect on ICT. It was recognised that in the area of social work there were significant external issues that needed addressing. In response to concerns that the Council was not employing and training its own Housing Officers and Customer Services staff, it was noted that there had been significant changes in requirements for the services after a great deal of structural change. It was further noted that these roles had been covered by agency staff in anticipation of the expected closures of Customer Service Points.


  1. It was noted that with the recent technological developments in the Council, a broad range of specialist ICT skills had been required to meet the needs of the transformation. A question was raised over how the Council ensured best value from spend on ICT contractors and whether there was an opportunity to train in-house staff to meet the needs of the organisation going forward.


  1. Members agreed that it was important to have a strategic understanding of where the organisation wanted to be. Concern was raised that services may require more support with their recruitment processes. Members were particularly concerned that some services were making the decision to employ agency staff at a higher cost than developing existing staff. It was noted that the Council needed to be forward thinking about what was needed and develop an approach to recruitment and selection that would achieve that.


  1. The point was made that in areas where there are national skills shortages, agencies were sometimes the best (or only viable) way to meet the challenge and attract individuals to the Council. It was noted that there was an opportunity to do things differently in recruitment including consideration of options to manage bank recruitment in-house and to make more of the Council’s “employer brand”. Officers to arrange for a report on the Council’s recruitment processes to be provided to a future meeting of the Committee, to include an honest assessment and ideas for improvements. Action: James Brereton


  1. Members referred to Para.11 and asked officers to include the numbers of agency staff per directorate, the agency commission range versus the cost of employing casual staff direct, and asked for this report to be a standing item for the committee to enable progress to be tracked. Action: James Brereton


  1. Members felt it beneficial to scrutinise the use of agency at Committee and was part of a range of human resources issues that were interrelated such as the use and affordability of specialist skills, addressing the challenges posed by the pay structure and how the Council responds to pay in areas such as social work.


  1. A member asked what could be done to mirror the benefits that employees received from agency work, such as offering fixed term contracts, to offer an agency style relationship without paying agency costs. A member suggested it might work like an in-house agency similar to the “bank” recruitment operated by hospitals. It was noted that the Council already operated “bank” arrangements, mostly in areas where statutory minimum standards of cover needed to be maintained.


  1. Officers were asked to provide a report to Committee that explains the role of the Guidant contract, including what they are doing to drive best value both for the Council and for casual workers. Action: James Brereton


The Committee RESOLVED:

To note the report and the comments and actions arising.

Supporting documents: