'Low morale' is causing Solihull Council staff to be off sick, councillor claims

-Credit: (Image: Solihull Council)
-Credit: (Image: Solihull Council)


A councillor has blamed 'low morale' for a sickness level "problem" at Solihull Council. Conservative Leslie Kaye said officers needed to investigate further.

A workforce report to the authority, covering the year to the end of February 2024, said: “Levels of sickness absence were relatively high but was on a downward trajectory and as a median currently stood at 11.1 days across the workforce, with Adult Social Care standing at 19.5 days and Children’s Services at 13 days.” Coun Kaye told the authority’s Resource and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board: “For comparison the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reported on average 7.8 days across all employers whereas published civil service figures show an average of 7.9 days across the year.

“I feel we have a problem with sickness we need to look into in Solihull - particularly in adult social care and children services.” The councillor said the 11.1 figure was equal to two-and-a-quarter working weeks a year, or "five per cent of total work time".

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“That costs the council something like five to eight million pounds a year in direct loss time,” Coun Kaye said. “In addition you have disruption to the work of other staff.

“While there may be many cases of genuine sickness this widespread absenteeism most likely indicates low morale in the workforce.” The councillor said he believed the figures did not so much "indicate a sickly workforce" but potentially more a "sickness in management”.

“People are waking up on a Monday morning and not feeling they particularly want to go to work,” the councillor told the committee. “Or when they come to work they do not feel their contribution is valued or appreciated.”

-Credit:Solihull Council
-Credit:Solihull Council

The Castle Bromwich councillor suggested the committee performed a “deep dive” into management training to see what was in place to ensure the authority’s workforce “remain motivated, focused and appreciated”. Coun Kaye also proposed setting up a task group to investigate the issue saying the scale of the problem justified there being “special work” done on it.

But Coun Kathryn Thomas, Liberal Democrats councillor for Lyndon, said: “I wanted to say to Coun Kaye I think you’ve made a lot of assumptions, without any information and you may - or may not be - barking up the wrong tree. To ask for a deep dive into the management training programme is probably making some assumptions.

“If you wanted to do that we review the absence stats, and get some feedback on what people said in return to work interviews as to why they were absent - that might lead us to further routes on questioning.” Solihull Council officer Andrew Felton, the authority's director of resources, said there was a “general issue” with health nationally with one-and-a-half to two million people currently off work who were not previously pre-Covid.

“That said those levels (among Solihull Council staff) are probably still higher than they need to be so there is some valid scrutiny around that from this committee,” Mr Felton said. Chairman of the committee Martin McCarthy pointed out officers could look into it further and prepare” quality work” for when the matter next returned in front of the committee.

The latest meeting was held at the Civic Suite on Monday, May 20.

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