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© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. Review of Sickness Absence Vale of Glamorgan Council Final Report- November 2009
© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. 2 Contents Introduction Key Messages Data Quality Audit Update Next Steps
© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. 3 Introduction A review of sickness absence management has been included within our 2008/9 audit plan for two key reasons: –As part of our risk assessment underpinning the 2008-09 audit plan, the Council's ability to collect accurate data on sickness absence emerged as an issue. The 2007-08 Improvement Plan excluded the actual results for sickness absence on the grounds that the systems for collecting the data were not sufficiently robust to provide good quality information. As such, it was decided not to report the information rather than include data that was not accurate. –The WAO carried out a review of the overall arrangements for sickness absence management in 2005/06 and reported the results in 2007. This review found that the Council had improved some arrangements but identified the need to develop the strategic approach to managing attendance. Recommendations centred around the need to improve performance management and the policy framework and the need to evaluate the Occupational Health service at the Council. To understand how the Council has addressed these issues, we have met with senior officers and reviewed relevant documentation (November 2009). This report summarises our main findings.
© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. 4 Key Messages Overall, our work suggests that the Council has taken action to considerably improve the management of sickness absence over the last year. For 2008/9, the actual number of average days sick was 11.6, against a target of 14.33. The projected outturn for 2009/10 is currently 9.98 days. Additional arrangements have been set in place to mitigate the risk posed by swine flu. This positive trend reflects: –the priority that is now given to the management of attendance and the performance arrangements designed to monitor progress, against targets, at all levels of the organisation; –the implementation and monitoring of a new policy that specifies how absence should be managed across the Council; and –the focus on service areas that have experienced particular challenges with sickness absence in the past. One outcome of these changes is a significant improvement in data quality. At all tiers, robust checks are now carried out on the accuracy of data, due to the implications for an individual, service area and department of poor quality information.
© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. 5 Key Messages Due to the progress that has been made over the last 12 months, Cabinet will be reducing their monitoring of progress from monthly to six monthly in 2010. Whilst this is understandable, there is a risk that, as a consequence (and due to the elapsed time since the launch of the new policy), the momentum for continued improvement will begin to slow. However, it is considered that this will be mitigated by the onus on managers to manage sickness robustness so that there are no surprises when reports are presented to Cabinet. The Council recognises that there are a number of areas where further work is still required, and these issues are included within the Management of Absence Improvement Plan. This includes developing a better understanding of long term sickness. Further information on these points is provided in the subsequent slides which detail the outcomes of our work regarding data quality and progress against the recommendations agreed with the WAO in 2007. As the Council has an action plan to further improve performance in this area, covering the key issues that still need to be addressed, we have not prepared a new action plan to accompany this report. Where we have identified a concern that is not currently reflected in the action plan, we recommend that it is added to the existing document.
© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. 6 Data Quality Following the introduction of a new policy for sickness absence in October 2008, many of the issues regarding the quality of sickness data have been resolved. The monitoring and control of sickness absence has become a priority for the Council in the last year and performance is now monitored every month at Cabinet level. This ensures that all service managers undertake detailed checks on the accuracy of reported information prior to the publication of papers. Data presented to managers is considered to be timely and the accuracy reasonable (some issues arise, for example, due to the number of people working part time). The implications for departments, service managers and individuals of inaccurate data are such that systematic and careful validation of sickness data is now viewed as an essential task. As a result of these findings, we have agreed with the HR department that no further testing of data quality is required, at this point in time. The most effective means of securing the accuracy, timeliness, completeness and consistency of data is to ensure that it is well used. As the performance management arrangements in this area, at all levels, appear to be working effectively, anomalies and errors should be minimised.
© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. 7 Audit Update- 2009 WAO Recommendation 2007 Update- November 2009To include within the Sickness Absence Management Plan Performance management The Council should: Ensure trends in absence data can be identified; Provide timely reports to managers; Refine reports to CMT to ensure that key issues are clear; Investigate departments with unusual trends; Absence reports have been revised and are presented to Cabinet monthly, at the current time (although, following the success of the new policy, this is likely to become six monthly in 2010). Cabinet are provided with performance by service area and a report showing progress against an agreed improvement plan. Service managers also receive monthly performance reports, within a few days of the month end. Trends in data are considered, although further work is required to understand long term sickness. Work has been carried out to analyse exit interview information, but this remains a challenging area. Reasons for absence are not reported to Cabinet, but this information is available to service managers. Visible service and adult social care were previously weak, in terms of sickness absence, but the change in policy and priority has considerably improved performance within Adult Services (current performance is 4.4 against an apportioned target of 5.4 days). Options to improve performance in Visible Services are being debated (working at home is not an option, in many cases). Ensure that reports detailing the reasons for long term sickness are available, at the relevant tier of the performance management framework.
© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. 8 Audit Update- 2009 WAO Recommendation 2007 Update- November 2009To include within the Sickness Absence Management Plan Performance Framework- continued Develop robust target setting procedures, involving service managers;and Compare performance through a benchmarking club. Managers are integral to the debate regarding targets. The target of 10.77 days for this year is based on last years performance in service areas, and has been developed in agreement with service managers. The Council does not yet have differentiated targets for short and long term sickness, although this will be addressed within the coming months. The Council undertakes benchmarking with other authorities in this area, to the extent that it is possible and of value. Agree differentiated targets for long and short term sickness.
© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. 9 Audit Update 2009 WAO Recommendation 2007 Update- November 2009To include within the Sickness Absence Management Plan Policy Framework The Council should: develop a suite of policies which encompass it's aspirations; develop an action plan to create a positive attendance culture Revise the current policy by introducing trigger points and adopting a case management approach Clarify the roles and responsibilities of CMT et al regarding attendance management Develop the role of HR so that it becomes more strategic The Council launched a new Management of Attendance Policy in October 2008. This includes the concept of trigger points and is the basis for the case management approach now in operation. An action plan has been developed and is monitored each month, to create a positive attendance culture. Welfare and support has improved, as a consequence. The consistent application of the policy throughout the Council is checked through flagging reports. Roles and responsibilities in relation to sickness management have been clarified, at all tiers, including CMT. A Directorate Champions Group is in place, focusing on sickness. HR is seeking to achieve a more strategic role, although it is still required to support managers with the implementation of case management. No recommendations
© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. 10 Audit Update- 2009 WAO Recommendation 2007 Update- November 2009To include within the Sickness Absence Management Plan Occupational Health The Council should: Evaluate the resource to ensure that it matches the need Evaluate the impact of OH activities Develop an appropriate and robust contract/service management regime An evaluation has been carried out of the OH service, including the impact of OH activities. A contract is being drawn up currently to improve accountability. The current OH resource includes 2 nurses and 1 doctor. Referrals to the doctor are reducing and the nurses are increasing. A number of employee support programmes are in place. The Sickness Absence Management Plan includes a number of actions to further improve the service No further recommendations required.
© Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. 11 Next Steps Following this brief overview of progress, we recommend that the Council reflects further on progress since the WAO review of 2007 and updates the Improvement Plan as necessary (for example, to introduce differentiated targets for short and long term absence). As part of our ongoing work with the Council, we will continue to monitor performance due to the significance of effective performance management in this area.
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