Purpose of Report – To provise an update on the County Councils changing workforce, presents key workforce data, outlines key areas of work and progress in year, and sets out key priorities for the year ahead.
Justine Brooksbank, Assistant Chief Executive for Business Support, provided an overview of the detailed report presented, and highlighted the following:
· Staff numbers had settled with the bulk of restructures now completed. In regard to the composition of the workforce, there had been a slight increase in the under 25s and the number of men employed. The average length of service was 9years, compared to a national figure of 4.5years, with an overall average workforce age of 47.4yrs. It was noted the Authority had historically had an older workforce and that there had been no complaints about discrimination against older members of the workforce, and additional support was provided to them where necessary e.g. IT training. It was also noted that there were more male employees in the higher pay bands;
· There had been a slight improvement in the number of staff with protected characteristics, with LGBT playing a more prominent role in the report;
· There had been a drop in sickness absence (20-25%), It was noted the figures were likely affected by the number of furloughed staff (700-800 staff). It also thought that staff were continuing to work because they were working from home, when previously they may have taken time off;
· A re-introduction programme for furloughed staff was underway;
· Mental health resilience and support was available to all staff, together with training for managers – Justine Brooksbank agree to provide a written update on take-up.
· A number of young people initiatives were underway to help address youth unemployment, which was increasing across North Yorkshire and had doubled in the last year;
· The Kickstart Scheme, with 40 placements with NYCC and a further 307 provided by other organisations across the region. It was noted that NYCC was the Gateway organisation, supporting those placements, which were all at various stages of the process (27 appointed to date);
· In regard to traineeships, NYCC had hosted the work experience element for 4 traineeships in early 2021 in business support and Technology and Change, with a further 2 planned this month;
· Apprenticeships at NYCC were doing well but the scheme was now much smaller than pre austerity days. It was noted that it had not been possible to spend all of the levy, so some of it had been returned. It was also noted that some schools across the region were unable to participate due to their small staffing numbers, and it was confirmed that up to 25% of the levy could be transferred to organisations across the North Yorkshire border, with the county already close to that level;
· The NYCC graduate programme had a successful track record, leading to the take up of substantive posts by those graduates;
· The focus on Diversity and Inclusion through a range of employee networks and events etc;
· Staff engagement through a range of means including the pulse survey;
· The rollout of TEAMs;
· Learning & Development opportunities;
· There had been a reduction in the spend on agency staff;
· Work was ongoing to address vacancies in the adult care sector and schools, with an intake of teachers from outside the area. It was suggested that delays in teacher training had arisen as a result of the pandemic, due to a delay in the take up of placements, and Justine Brooksbank agreed to provide written feedback on this after the meeting;
· There was no sense of anxiety amongst staff around LGR at this stage, in part probably due to the regular updates provided. However, it was noted that as LGR progressed, a recruitment issue may arise for middle management roles, due to the uncertainty of those posts going forward;
· No more than 20% of staff would be able to return to the workplace as of 21st June 2021 unless the Covid safety requirements changed. It was noted that some staff would welcome a return to the officer where others would not. There was also a sense of fatigue amongst some staff from constant online meetings and some staff were struggling to separate work and home life;
· Future working arrangements post Covid would be based on service requirements, with the introduction of a framework to support services in identifying the most appropriate way forward. It was noted that whilst a new hybrid contract would not be required, some changes may be required to employees terms and conditions;
In reference to the last annual update, the Chair queried progress with the Committee’s suggestions made at that time about the provision of staff training on Mental Health issues and dealing with people with Dementia, and the possible development of a future apprenticeship opportunity associated with Autism Plus. Justine Brooksbank agreed to provide feedback on those suggestions after the meeting.
The Committee were pleased to note the steps outlined that would assist and support staff in their development of new working arrangements, post Covid. They also acknowledged that staff had gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic, and agreed this should not be exploited going forward.
Members thanked Justine Brooksbank for her detailed report and requested that she pass on the Committee’s thanks to all staff.
Resolved – That:
· The Update be noted
· A further update be provided in 12 months’ time