Posted: Mon 11th Jan 2021

Sickness rate among council workers in drops as many switch to home working

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

A switch to home working during the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in sickness rates dropping among council staff in Flintshire.

A new report shows three days were lost to illness for every full time equivalent role at Flintshire Council in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year, compared to around 4.7 during the previous year.

The local authority said the “significant improvement” was down to the change in working habits.

Although employees who can’t carry out their jobs from home have been given personal protective equipment to prevent infections, the majority of the £1.36m spent on agency staff within the same time frame was to cover for those in public facing jobs, such as binmen and social workers.

In the report, Sharon Carney, the council’s senior manager for human resources, said: “Attendance has been managed very closely throughout the pandemic as managers and employees have had to learn to manage a range of new and complex scenarios such as self-isolation, household isolation and COVID absence.

“As we continue to navigate new legislation and provide guidance for complex situational questions, to tackle the short and long term obstacles associated with the impact of COVID-19 it has been necessary to provide regular communications and updated guidance to managers and employees.

“In addition, we have extended our seasonal flu programme to provide vaccinations to all key workers.

“The largest agency spend is within streetscene and transportation at £714,000.

“The second largest spend is within social Services at £291,000.

“Both of these services have been at the forefront of the response to the pandemic, which has required changes to working practices, including the introduction of ‘bubbles’ to keep our workforce safe which has impacted on the number of additional, temporary resources required to supplement the service.”

During the summer of 2020, the authority carried out a survey of its staff to understand the emotional and physical impact of the pandemic.

A total of 1,237 employees responded, with more than half indicating they were working from home.

About 40 per cent of those based at home reported a positive impact on their wellbeing, compared to 20 per cent who said there had been a negative effect.

Meanwhile, a further 40 per cent said the change of working practice had no effect on them either way.

Around eight out of ten workers said they had not experienced any symptoms of Covid-19, but half were worried about the health of friends and family.

The report will be discussed by councillors at a meeting on Thursday, January 14.

Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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