£4million staff sickness bill at Northumberland County Council

Council staff off sick cost Northumberland taxpayers more than £4million last year.

Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 6:00 am
Northumberland County Council

Sickness absence at Northumberland County Council had an annual cost of £4.02million in 2019-20, with the average number of lost days per full-time employee (FTE) being 10.6.

Both of these figures represent a reduction from 2018-19, but it continues to be well above the authority’s workforce committee target of 7.5 days per FTE.

Nearly 56% of all staff had some absence due to sickness during the last 12 months.

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Speaking at the Monday, July 13, meeting of Northumberland County Council’s corporate services committee, HR director and deputy chief executive Kelly Angus, said: “It’s a significant cost to the organisation and we keep a very close eye on sickness absence.”

This includes analysis to ensure that each council directorate understands their sickness absence information, with FTE lost days and the associated costs being provided to managers on a monthly basis.

Additional work is now being done to create ‘a true picture of long and short-term absences over a longer period of time for each employee and service area’.

Benchmarking data from 2018-19 – last year’s data is not yet available – shows, however, that Northumberland’s lost days per FTE rate was below the average for similar local authorities and less than the figures in North Tyneside, Newcastle, Durham and Cumbria, although it was higher than the average for all English authorities.

There were a number of positives included in the human resources annual update as well.

For example, there were more than 350 apprenticeships in 2019-20, with 3.7% of the council’s workforce being apprentices, above the public service duty of 2.3%.

Plus, in the staff survey, the number of respsondents satisfied with the extent that the organisation values their work increased 10% on the previous year and 17% in the past four years, while there was an 11% increase on staff believing that the council cares and takes positive action on staff wellbeing.

The survey saw a record 80.5% response rate, with Ms Angus saying: “This really does show staff are engaged and want to share their views with us.”

Committee members called for an additional six-monthly workforce update this year, due to concerns about how Covid-19 may have impacted on staff wellbeing.

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