New HR plans and policies for the Welsh Assembly have paid off – to the tune of £1.1 million according to an official report.
The auditor general for Wales Jeremy Coleman found that the targeting of long-term and/or psychological-related absences had reduced the average number of days’ absence taken by each member of staff from ten days to eight – a productivity saving worth £1.1 million in staff time.
This reduction follows an increased corporate focus on the issue, reflected in:
- Closer monitoring by senior management.
- The introduction of improved management policies and procedures for handling sickness absence.
- Better support for managers through a new HR structure.
- Additional training.
The recruitment of a full time occupational health doctor has also helped to focus particular attention on resolving long term sickness absence cases.
Further developments are expected soon as the HR department is in the process of introducing a new electronic ‘Snowdrop’ HR system. This aims to simplify the absence recording process and provide better quality information to managers at all levels on sickness absence trends.
But the auditor general warned that despite these improvements, sickness rates could rise again through ongoing changes in the organisation. These include the merger of the Welsh Assembly government with a number of former Assembly-sponsored public bodies, which has increased staffing levels by 1,500.
And even though improvements have been made, the report suggests some further refinements to the new systems, including:
- Issuing additional guidance to line managers to clarify some of the details in the sickness absence policy and procedures.
- Using the Snowdrop HR system to record and report sickness absence relative to contracted time lost, taking account of the increasing flexibility of working patterns across the organisation.
- Evaluating whether arrangements for corporate health services and HR support remain fit for purpose as the National Assembly for Wales expands and becomes more geographically dispersed.
Mr Coleman said: “Improved sickness absence management is producing better results across the National Assembly for Wales. This shows what can be achieved when organisations commit time and resources to tackling this issue.
“It is important that management across the National Assembly for Wales continue to keep a close watch on levels of sickness absence, especially during this period of organisational change.”