Report by Director Workforce, Organisational Development and Delivery Support

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1 Agenda Item No. 8 Performance and Finance Select Committee 3 October 2014 Sickness Absence and Employee Health and Wellbeing Report by Director Workforce, Organisational Development and Delivery Support Executive Summary The report briefly considers stress related sickness absence and the actions being taken to address this. The report considers sickness absence rates in the County Council and the estimated costs of sickness absence. It shows that whilst the lost time rate has increased in the year to August 2014, that the cost of the sickness absence per employee has reduced. It also shows that the County Council s lost time rate for 2013 compares favourably with other local authorities. The report considers the actions that have been taken to address sickness absence in some services and the results of these actions. The report also outlines the Health and Wellbeing strategy that is being developed by HR in conjunction with Public Health. This will focus on preventative measures to improve the health of the workforce. Recommendations The Committee is asked to: a) Comment on the sickness absence figures and the actions taken to address sickness absence b) Consider whether it wishes further work to be undertaken to address sickness absence levels (with the consequent resource implications) c) Support the work being undertaken on the Health and Wellbeing Strategy 1. Background 1.1 At its meeting on 22 July 2014, Members of the Performance and Finance Select Committee Business Planning Group (BPG) considered a report on the effectiveness of pilot schemes to reduce sickness absence caused by stress and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). The pilot had demonstrated that the physiotherapy intervention for MSD had resulted in an earlier return to work and a good return on investment. 1.2 The first day stress intervention had however proven less successful, with minimal take up of the service. Members wished to understand the reasons for the lack of take up of the first day stress intervention.

2 1.3 The BPG expressed concern at the reported increase in sickness absence over 7 days per annum since Further investigation of this was requested, particularly in the light of the decrease in FTE over the same period. Members also asked for details of the cost of sickness absence for 2013/ Members also wished to understand what preventative, as opposed to reactive measures, were in place to support staff health and wellbeing. 2. First Day stress intervention 2.1 It appears that lack of take up may largely be due to the stigma associated with stress related illnesses. There is a need to better communicate the benefits of asking for help at an early stage. Work is underway with the Council s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provider to try and address this issue. 2.2 A mental health toolkit is being developed (as part of the work being undertaken on the Health and Wellbeing Strategy) to help managers identify and address mental health issues in the workplace. Work will be commissioned on building resilience in staff and helping them identify the signs of stress and develop coping mechanisms. 3. Sickness Absence rates 3.1 In exploring the data it has become clear that the report used to provide the information on the cost of sickness absence (which had been automatically generated through SAP) was incorrect. It has been difficult to validate the historical sickness absence information, FTE and salaries on SAP dating back to This is because of the scale of change within SAP over this period (as a result of organisational changes). This issue is being followed up with the IT team to see if a technical solution can be found. 3.2 A high level analysis has however been undertaken to compare sickness absence rates in 2011 and This is shown at Appendix A. 3.3 There has been a reduction in staff since This has included a large number of lower graded staff transferring to Capita and other providers. The average salary cost has therefore increased. 3.4 The data is indicative rather the conclusive. The data shows that compared to 2011, we now have fewer staff who individually have marginally higher absence and are likely to be paid marginally more.

3 However the overall number of days absent and the associated salary cost is much lower than in The data shows that the number of days absence has reduced from more than 14,000 to just over 11,000 p.a. The associated salary cost has reduced from just under 1.5 million to just under 1.2 million p.a. We are also aware that there was some under reporting of sickness absence in The number of days lost and the associated cost for that period is likely to have been higher. The reduction in the days lost and the equivalent salary cost is probably understated as a result. 3.5 This reduction is not a cost saving in itself. We do not have the data on how this absence was covered and whether additional expenditure was incurred in covering the sickness absence (through the use of fixed term contracts, additional hours/overtime or agency staff). The reduction in salary cost is more of an indication of productivity. The decrease in salary cost could indicate improved productivity in 2014, (as a result of a reduction in days lost through sickness absence) compared to The Lost Time Rate (LTR) for individual services is shown in Appendix B. The LTR at end of April 2014 was 3.38%. This is 0.05% higher than at the same time last year. The comparison of 2013 to 2014 by Directorate is not reliable due to the reorganisations during the period. 3.7 The highest absence was in Adults Services at 4.53%, followed by Children s Services at 3.69%. This is consistent with the nature of services (e.g. size, nature of work) that typically report higher levels of absence. Adults Services is showing at 0.05% higher than at the same time last year, with Children s Services 0.07% lower than at this time last year. 3.8 Benchmarking data at Appendix B. This shows that in 2013, WSCC s overall LTR compared reasonably favourably to other local authorities. The 2014 CIPD benchmarking report is not yet available. 4. Actions to address sickness absence 4.1 A small number of projects have been undertaken to try to impact on sickness absence levels. These projects have been successful in reducing sickness absence levels. 4.2 Two projects were undertaken in Children s Services in areas of particularly high sickness absence. One involved office based staff and the other a residential establishment. The projects took similar approaches with the HR Business Partner working directly with the managers concerned.

4 4.3 In the office based example, the managers were provided with detailed sickness absence data, which then followed up with meetings with the managers concerned. This work identified that there were high levels of frequent short term absence; a lack of understanding of the sickness absence policy; and a lack of management confidence in addressing sickness absence. 4.4 The HR Business Partner worked through a number of specific cases to explore strategies for managing each case. In addition managers were coached on the difficult conversations that needed to take place. Prior to the intervention there were 147 sickness absence days lost for the six months to end of September After the intervention there were 53 days lost for the 6 months to end of March A reduction of 64%. 4.5 In the residential establishment example, the HR Business Partner reviewed sickness absence information with the manager and agreed a prioritised action plan. There was a monthly review meeting for three months, to review the plan. The numbers of days lost (for the same period as in 4.4 above) reduced from 814 days to 345 days. A reduction of 58%. 4.6 A similar project was undertaken in Transport and Countryside, where the HR Business Partner identified a high LTR (5.71%). It was identified that there was a lack of understanding about how to manage long term sickness (including a lack of return to work interviews) and a lack of awareness of the extent of the issue. 4.7 An action plan was agreed to tackle both long and short term sickness. This included circulation of a monthly sickness report by team, with actions for managers/team leaders. The actions were reviewed on a fortnightly basis. The need for return to work interviews was reinforced. The importance of attendance was also communicated to the workforce. The LTR in June 2014 was 2.76% compared to 5.52% the same time last year. 5. Employee Health and Wellbeing strategy 5.1 A Health and Wellbeing Strategy has been developed by HR in conjunction with Public Health. This is attached at Appendix C. The focus of the strategy is to improve the health of the workforce; helping employees to manage their own health in the workplace and to remain in work. The focus of the work will be preventative, encouraging employees to adopt healthy lifestyles and providing tools to monitor the health and well-being of the workforce. Work is underway with a view to developing a joint action plan to deliver the strategy.

5 6. Conclusions 6.1 The LTR has increased marginally since 2011 (but we are aware that there was a measure of under reporting in 2011). The cost of sickness absence has however reduced (despite the fact that average salaries have increased as a result of changes in the workforce). 6.2 The LTR remains stubbornly above the target of 3.2% and is currently 3.38%. This does however compare favourably with benchmarking information from other similar local authorities in 2013 which showed an LTR averaging 3.59% (with WSCC having a figure of 3.44% for the time period concerned). 6.3 There has been a return on investment through the reactive work on MSD interventions as referenced in paragraph 1.1 above. This has resulted in earlier returns to work than would otherwise have been the case. This intervention is now available through the organisation s occupational health contract and will be publicised with the relaunch of the contract over the next couple of months. 6.4 The work on MSD interventions is complemented by the preventative work undertaken by the Occupational Therapy Back Care Advisors in relation to manual handling and moving and handling children. 531 staff were trained in 2013 (465 in Adults Services and 66 in Children s Services). 6.5 There was little take-up of the interventions in relation to first day stress interventions. Sickness absence caused by stress (whether or not this is work related) remains a concern. Work will be undertaken with the EAP as part of the relaunch of the service to publicise the availability of the service and the support available to encourage staff to access the service. This will be complemented by the work being undertaken on the Health and Wellbeing strategy in terms of identifying and addressing mental health issues in the workplace. 6.6 It is clear that where high levels of sickness absence have been identified and addressed (see paragraph 4 above) this has resulted in a significant reduction in sickness absence. This work has however proven to be resource intensive. Adopting a similar approach to services with higher than average levels of sickness absence would require additional resources. It is also not clear what the overall return on investment would be and how successful this would be in improving the overall LTR (when the LTR is compared to the LTR for similar organisations).

6 7. Implications 7.1 Should the Committee wish to adopt a more proactive organisational wide approach to sickness absence such as described in paragraph 4 above, this would require additional resources. If resources were not made available this would seriously impact the work being undertaken in HR to support transformational change. 7.2 There are no Crime and Disorder Act or Human Rights Act implications. Natasha Edmunds Director Workforce, Organisation and Delivery Support Contact: Jamie McGarry (ext 22470) or Helen Kane (ext 22458) Principal HR Business Partner (People) Principal Manager (HR Policy and Practice) Appendices Appendix A Sickness Absence Data 2011 and 2014 Appendix B Lost Time Rate 2013/14 and Benchmark Comparisons Appendix C Health and Wellbeing Strategy Background Papers None

7 Agenda Item No. 8 Appendix A April 2014 April 2011 Total FTE* Total Salaries Average Salary Employee FTE from Workforce Statement* LTR Estimated Days Estimated salary equivalent to days absent Days per employee ,663,551 27, % 11,028 1,186, ,943,701 25, % 14,293 1,459, Estimated salary cost per employee *Data has been taken from people and positions reports which has not been reconciled with workforce statement FTE, (due to timescales), so is an approximation. Casuals and flexible hours contracts have been removed. The data shows that: Average salary appears to have increased while FTE has decreased. The average salary for 2014 is at the lower end of Grade 9 while the average salary in 2011 was between the top of G8 and the bottom of G9 Lost Time Rate has increased by 0.23% since 2011, although there was some year on year fluctuation. During there were issues regarding sickness absence reporting where sickness absence was under reported. The number of days absence has decreased since 2011 The estimated total salary cost associated with the days absence lost (as a measure of productivity rather than actual cost) has decreased. The average days per employee has increased by 0.6 days and the average salary associated has increased by an estimated 110 per employee.

8 Agenda Item No. 8 Appendix B WSCC Lost Time Rate Adult s Services 4.53% 4.48% Children s Services 3.69% 3.76% Communities Commissioning 2.29% 3.76% Finance & Assurance 3.14% 2.59% Fire & Rescue Service 3.14% 2.83% Public Health & H&SCC 1.99% N/A% Service Operations 2.82% 2.47% Strategic Development 1.21% 0.73% Lost Time Rate Comparison Based on CIPD Report 2013 Lost Time Rate (Mean) WSCC 3.44% Public Sector 3.8% County/Single Tier* 4.5% Local Government 3.9% Private Sector 3.2% Not for profit 3.6% South East (Exc London) 3.5% Local benchmarking 2013 Area Lost Time Rate West Sussex County Council 3.44% East Sussex County Council 4.32% Hampshire County Council 3.46% Kent County Council 3.15%

9 Agenda Item No. 8 Appendix C Strategic theme Health & well-being- we have a workforce that is supported, healthy and safe and can contribute to the full Why this is important to us We know that happy, healthy and safe workforce is a productive workforce. We are aware of the costs of sickness absence to the organisation. We know that stress related and musculo-skeletal disorders are the most common reported reason for sickness absence. We know that work is important in maintaining mental health and promoting the recovery of those who have experienced mental health problems. We know that health problem or an injury can have a major impact on people s lives and their ability to work. We recognise the impact of ill health and injury not just on the wellbeing of the individual but also on their families. We also know that unplanned absence puts additional pressure on work colleagues who have to pick up extra work. What we will do Help employees manage their own health in the workplace and to remain in work. Help employees to return to return to work after absence because of illness or injury Help employees to avoid work related health problems including stress by helping to minimise the risks of employees becoming ill or injured in the first instance. Encourage employees to adopt healthy lifestyles. Work in partnership with public health to help improve the health of our employees. Establish pilots to provide evidence of the effectiveness of promoting health and well-being in the workforce. Enable employees to develop emotional resilience and cope with stress arising from work or life events. Support our employees during periods of transition. Provide tools to help managers manage and monitor the health and safety of our workforce Provide information to enable employees to manage their own health and safety in the workplace. We recognise that 41% of organisations currently regard employee wellness activities as a perk rather than a necessary investment. But that in 2018, 75% of employers think that employee wellness will be something that will be formally measured and reported on.

10 We understand the importance of being able to demonstrate to both our current and future employees our commitment to their health, safety and well-being. We intend to lead by example in promoting best practice in health and well-being to West Sussex Employers and through this to West Sussex Communities. Key performance measures We will provide managers with management information on sickness absence (as part of the development of the Capita solution for management information) We will identify outcome measures that will allow us to report on progress and determine success. Improvement in attendance Reduction in days lost due to stress/mental illness and musculoskeletal injuries especially those injuries sustained in the workplace. Positive staff feedback on their well-being at work with more staff recommending WSCC as a good employer. Ambitions We have a healthy and productive workforce where our employees health and well-being is not adversely affected by work. We will have good quality advice and support in relation to employee health, safety and wellbeing which is available and accessible to both managers and staff through the Point and through our Employee Assistance Programme and Occupational Health Provider. We will be an exemplar of a safe and healthy workplace. We will be a carer friendly employer. We will make a positive difference to the well-being of our employees and hence the residents of West Sussex.

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