Kate Sullivan (Lead Commissioner - Culture, Leadership and Performance) stated that this was a new way to report on health and sickness absence in Warwickshire County Council’s workforce and that it replaces the traditional style review presented previously. The report presents to the Committee a focussed annual review, in the new format, which highlights the achievements over the last 12 months, next year’s priorities, and the workforce performance data. The new approach supports a focus on continual development, as well as our employer value proposition and ongoing drive around recruitment and retention.
In terms of the headlines from the review, Kate Sullivan advised that absences had significantly reduced from 10.9 days per FTE (full-time equivalent) to 7.45 days in 2020/21 which overachieved against last year's target of a 7% reduction; this was the lowest level in a decade and below the public sector and other local authorities’ comparatives for the first time in five years. Regular check-ins had been undertaken with staff which helped track how people were feeling and tailor any support they needed. At least 80% of staff were managing well and 86% of staff felt that wellbeing was being promoted at work. Sustainable and resilient workforce groups had been set up with managers and professionals driving actions to maximise wellness at work. Homeworking and increased hygiene had also contributed to the sickness absence reductions.
Absence caused by stress and mental health reasons made up over 1/3 of absences and this will remain the focus for 2021/22 along with long-term absences which made up 70%. Mental health absences increased in terms of percentage but reduced in terms of FTE from 3.172 days to 2.47. Two thirds of staff took no absent days in the last 12 months which was an increase from 50% the previous year. Cancer related sickness absence has seen an increase over the last 12 months. Covid-19 related absences did not significantly impact the absence reasons overall however there may be long-term mental health affects which we are yet to see.
Councillor Kam Kaur praised the report but noted that it took a pandemic to reduce absences in the authority. She stated that eight days per FTE was a good benchmark and that the People Directorate would benefit focus and extra support due to their higher absence rates.
In response to Councillor Sarah Millar, Kate Sullivan stated that a paper had been brought to December’s Staff and Pensions meeting which focused on agile working. This offer was based on trusting people to work from home effectively; people work at their best in different ways so some may work better at home or the office or a mixture of both. The offer for staff to choose where they wanted to work remained during the pandemic as staff could not come into the office normally. Workforce pilots were ongoing where specific teams would work in a different way, and this will inform our future use of ... view the full minutes text for item 4