The fact that City of York Council lost 23,000 working days to staff sickness last year indicates it is ‘increasingly dysfunctional’.
So says York Green Party, which says council plans to pay an external company to tackle high staff absence rates “lack compassion and empathy”.
Members of the council’s executive approved plans to pay a company £180,000 to reduce absences by a third at a meeting last week.
The Green party is now calling for the decision to be reviewed and Cllr Denise Craghill (Green, Guildhall) said:
We are not against getting external advice and a fresh outside perspective on how to organise work better to make the council more effective.
But this proposal, which includes the use of a remote company, using people not even based within the council, to effectively hound staff back to work from the ‘first few days’ of their sick leave, seems punitive and unlikely to improve staff morale or service delivery.
She said that she is not surprised sickness levels are rising at a time of funding cuts when staff are “attempting to cover two to three jobs”.
Cllr Craghill added: “The introduction of mindfulness classes and a table tennis table are not going to make a significant impact unless we also address the root problems of an authority that is becoming increasingly dysfunctional.”
Andrea Dudding from Unison also criticised plans to use an external provider. She said the union welcomes the council taking a “positive and proactive approach” but added:
What this report touches on but does not elucidate is the continuing culture within this authority of attempting to squeeze a quart out of a pint pot with the resultant consequences of too much work and not enough time, with the inevitable sickness absence that results from staff being burnt out.
Members tell us that they are ready to return to work but there is no plan for them and a return is delayed.
Council leader Cllr Ian Gillies said: “Where it’s been in-house it’s been slow and we still have 23,000 days lost to sickness so something has to be done.
“This is a way of doing it and it will hopefully be managed in a sensitive way.”