Agenda item

Sustainable and Resilient Workforce Annual Review 2020/21


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 previouslyThe 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 recruitmenand 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 office space and our property assets 


In response to Councillor Jill Simpson-Vince, Kate Sullivan stated that it was hard to collect data showing that absence went down because staff were not commuting but this would be attempted.  

Following a supplementary from Councillor Millar, Kate Sullivan confirmed that we are not yet sure of the long-term mental health implications of Covid-19, but this would become a priority for consideration in 2021/22. She added that we do expect to absences start to rise as people got out more. 


In response to a question from Councillor Kettle, Kate Sullivan stated that the People Directorate likely had more face-to-face contact with the public compared to the Communities Directorate. The cohort of the Communities Directorate was also different to the previous year due to changes in organisational structure, so this made it difficult to compare like for like information from the previous year.  


In response to Councillor Millar, Kate Sullivan said that they do not report on schools because they operate independently from the County Council. 


The Chair commented that the reduction in absences demonstrated that the Council had been prepared for the pandemic in so far as the fact that staff had access to IT equipment which enabled them to work from home when the need arose. 


The Committee agreed that the charts provided were useful and they would like to continue to see them as part of this report 



That the Staff & Pensions Committee

1. Notes the performance information in relation to the management of employee sickness absence during 2020/21 and endorses an overall target of 8 days per FTE (with a +/- 1 day tolerance).

2. Notes the work in our approach to developing a sustainable and resilient workforce and supports the priority actions for 2021/2022.

3. Considers for future years whether the use of the charts in section 3 are a complementary addition to the Annual Review, or whether the annual review information would be sufficient.

Supporting documents: