The Lead Human Resources Officer presented the above report, a copy of which had previously been circulated. She advised that the purpose of the report was to provide Members with an update on progress in relation to Absence Management for the year 2018/2019.
Councillor Mellon welcomed the report. Whilst acknowledging the savings which had been achieved, she referred to the importance of the health and wellbeing of employees. She stated that the action plan was a model of good practice which should be emulated throughout Council.
Councillor Boyle welcomed the introduction of specific measures to address the problem of sickness absence and the subsequent reduction in figures in respect thereof. Councillor Boyle queried if the reduction could have been impacted by the number of previous employees on long-term sickness absence who had now retired.
The Lead Human Resources Officer advised that she did not have specific figures in regards to these numbers available at the Meeting. She confirmed that a number of employees had accepted the Voluntary Severance Agreement, however, sickness absence levels among those employees was very low and would not have impacted on the reduction figures presented to Committee. She welcomed the reduction particularly given its significance in regards to other Council areas. She stated that the Council’s main objective was to assure the health and wellbeing of all its employees.
Councillor McLaughlin In response to concerns expressed by Councillor McLaughlin with regard to a recent Appeal within PSNI regarding holiday overtime, the Lead Human Resources Officer advised that in terms of holiday overtime Derry City and Strabane were one of the first Councils to implement a policy to pay holiday overtime which had been in place since 2016. However, guidance would be sought in regards to the specifics of the PSNI case.
In response to a request from Councillor McLaughlin, the Lead Human Resources Officer undertook to prepare a report on the legal perspective of this case for submission to the next Meeting of Committee.
The Chief Executive stated that Council was in this fortunate position through planning and design. He stated that the Human Resources section had been extremely pro-active in terms of working across all areas of Council to ensure the delivery of high quality services with the best interests of employees health and wellbeing to the fore. He referred to the considerable number of initiatives undertaken by the Council to promote health and wellbeing.
In response to Councillor McLaughlin’s request, the Chief Executive confirmed that a report would be presented to Committee bearing in mind the legalities and sensitivities surrounding this issue.
Alderman Hussey queried if the rationalisation of salaries and wages between employees from Derry and Strabane had been completed.
The Lead Human Resources Officer pointed out that in terms of harmonisation of pay scales the work was nearing completion. She stated that the main areas to be finalised were Environmental Health section and a number of minor issues to be addressed within the Leisure sector. It was anticipated that the process would be completed within the next six months.
The Lead Human Resources Officer explained that in regards to the terms and conditions of employment, employee transfers had been protected through TUPE legislation and there was therefore no necessity to address this.
Alderman Hussey referred the impact of the issue of equal value in regards to employee wellbeing.
The Chief Executive advised that Council was to the fore in comparison with other Councils in regards to the rationalisation of pay scales and would probably be the first Council to complete this task given the complexities involved.
Recommended that Members note and endorse the approach outlined to continue to manage absence.