Council tackling staff absence

By on 17/06/2013 in Deputy Leader, News

New measures are being introduced to tackle the level of sickness absence in the city council after figures were released showing that the council still faces a challenge to reduce levels among employees.

During 2012/13, the average number of days taken off per full time employee was 12.4, higher than the target of 9.25 days. The 12/13 figure is also an increase on the 2011/12 figure of 9.73 days.

However there are encouraging signs, as over the last 12 months the council has made reducing long-term sickness absence a priority – and the policy has yielded dividends, with the equivalent of £700,000 already saved in sickness pay and management time.

Figures show that over the period from July 2012 to March 2013 the number of absences of six months and over was reduced by 44% (from 151 down to 85). At the same time the number of absences over 18 months was slashed by 92% (from 24 down to just 2).

Councillor Ian Ward, Deputy Leader Birmingham City Council said: “Reducing sickness absence is a key priority for the council, and while the latest figures do not yet fully reflect the council’s approach to the issue, we are absolutely determined to build on our early successes in tackling the number of long-term absences.

“But it will take time to tackle the issue at its root. Government cuts have caused a rapidly-reduced headcount, leading to low morale and increased stress among remaining employees who are understandably uncertain about their future, and this has impacted on our figures.

“If we don’t see a continuous improvement in current levels of absence then we will look at further ways of bringing the levels down, but we will also ensure that all of our employees are fully supported in helping the council to respond to the serious challenges that the council and its citizens face.”

Having successfully tackled long-term absence,  significant steps are now being taken to address attendance more generally, with managers being robustly challenged to improve their awareness and control of absence.  This has been aided by an improvement in the quality of the data used, and an improvement in management reporting – the system improvements may in fact have contributed to higher absence rates being reported in 2012/13.

And in consultation with Trades Unions, the individual  case review process when employees are on sickness absence is being reviewed in an effort to make it fit for purpose, with proposals to change timescales for monitoring and processing each case. Currently there is no set timeframe for a final case hearing but the proposals currently with Trades Unions would reduce this process to 14 weeks.

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