Corporate Health and Safety Committee Explanation of HSE Audit on

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					Corporate Health and Safety Committee
17 October 2007
Explanation of HSE Audit on Council’s approaches to Work-Related
Stress (WRS) and Managing Sickness Absence (MSA)

Report by:                  Head of Organisational Development, Chief Executive’s
Ward Implications:          All
      For Information

1.           Synopsis

1.1          The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has just completed an audit on the
             Council’s management of work-related stress (WRS) and management of
             sickness absence (MSA). The HSE were initially provided with requested
             pre-audit information for assessment. That assessment determined the
             extent of an on-site audit, which took place during the first week of October

1.2          As well as assessing Corporate policies and arrangements, the HSE have in
             particular looked at arrangements and practices within Adult Services, City
             Service and Schools. In relation to schools the audit concentrated on our
             application of the National Schools Well-being programme.

1.3          A report is expected from the HSE, before the end of 2007, outlining what
             they consider to be the Council’s strengths in relation to WRS and MSA,
             together with suggestions where they consider that there is room for

1.4          A report on the HSE findings in relation to WRS, and the Council’s initial
             views on how to respond to any HSE suggestions, will be brought to the next
             meeting of this Committee.

1.5          The HSE’s findings, and any suggestions, on the management of sickness
             absence are not within the remit of this Committee. They will be separately
             discussed with the Trade Unions.

2.           Recommendations

2.1          The Committee is recommended to note this report, and to note that a further
             report will be brought to the committee once the H&S audit report is received.

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3.           Background

3.1          Stress and mental health conditions are a major cause of sickness absence
             across local authorities and other public bodies. In recognition of this the
             HSE are undertaking a national programme to assess the steps which large
             local authorities, and other public sector bodies, have taken to address
             factors which can contribute to WRS. The recent audit of Newcastle City
             Council is part of the HSE’s programme, which includes 7 other large north
             east local authorities.

3.2          Whilst the HSE is interested in controlling factors which can contribute to
             WRS, the Council has taken a much wider approach to the issue of tackling
             potential employee stress. The Council’s policy, as the committee is aware,
             is threefold, namely:
             •       to work with managers and employees to reduce risk factors at work
                     which may cause stress (ie to reduce WRS stressors);
             •       to help employees avoid becoming stressed by work or domestic
                     factors; and
             •       to support employees who are suffering from stress no matter what the

3.3          Well established corporate measures designed to further this policy include:
             Preventive Measures
             •       Corporate Code of Practice for Managers on “Preventing Work-
                     Related Stress and Tackling Employee Stress in General”.
             •       “Tackling Stress Together” Leaflet for Employees.
             •       Briefing Sessions for Employees on Tackling Stress.
             •       Training for Staff on Dealing with Difficult Situations.
             •       Dignity at Work Policy and Procedures.
             •       Work Life Balance Policy and Flexible Working Arrangements.
             •       Performance Development and Appraisal Scheme.
             •       Extensive health and safety codes aimed at eliminating unsafe and
                     unhealthy working conditions.
             •       Robust Recruitment and Selection Procedures.
             Support Measures
             •       Sickness Absence Management Procedures.
             •       Early referral to Occupational Health, by managers, of employees who
                     appear to be suffering from stress, or who are absent due to stress.
             •       Short term face to face counselling service available on medical
                     referral by Occupational Health.
             •       External agencies offering information, advisory and support services
                     for individuals.

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3.4          The linchpin of these corporate measures is the corporate code of practice
             for managers on “Preventing WRS and Tackling Employee Stress in
             General”. The key element of this code is the generic risk assessment which
             sets out the measures that all managers should take to control what the HSE
             have identified as common potential stressors at work, and have translated
             into HSE management standards, namely:
             •       Demands – includes issues like workload, work patterns and the work
             •       Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
             •       Support – includes encouragement, sponsorship and resources
                     provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.
             •       Relationships – includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict
                     and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.
             •       Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation
                     and whether the organisation ensures that the person does not have
                     conflicting roles.
             •       Change – how organisational change (large and small) is managed
                     and communicated across the organisation.
3.5          In various parts of the Council supplementary measures have also been
             taken, in addition to adopting the above corporate measures. For example
             within certain schools the LEA has piloted a National Schools Well-being
             programme, which amongst other things assesses how well the above
             common stressors are controlled, and develops school based action plans for
             improvement. Within the Customer Services Division of City Service a trial is
             taking place on the use of the HSE on-line stressor indicator tool, to assess
             controls over common stressors and to develop local action plans for

3.6          The results of the above schools pilot and City Service trial will help point to
             how either of these approaches could be usefully applied in areas where
             information indicates that WRS could be a particular problem. Detailed
             analysis of data on sickness absences, and referrals to Occupational Health,
             will help to identify such specific operational areas.

4.           The HSE Audit Process

4.1          The HSE requested a wide range of pre-audit information on policies,
             procedures and practice related to WRS and MSA.

             The information package provided was set out as follows:

Section Headings                            Section Heading Descriptor
1     Corporate Standards –                 Corporate standards that contribute directly or
      Policies, Procedures and              indirectly to the prevention of work related stress
      Guidance                              and tackling stress in general and the effective
                                            management of sickness absence.

2     Data used to Inform and               Corporate collated data that contributes to action
      Monitor Corporate                     planning and targeting control measures.

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Section Headings                            Section Heading Descriptor
3     Corporate Management and              Evidences a strategic approach, commitment,
      Steering Group Reports,               action planning, monitoring and communication
      Action Planning and                   within the Council management structure.

4     Political Reports,                    Evidences commitment, direction and monitoring at
      Recommendations and                   political level within the Council.

5     Training/Induction/Briefings Corporate training provision that contributes to the
      for Managers and             understanding and actioning of stress
      Employees                    management/sickness absence processes.

6     Consultation and                      Evidences consultation on corporate stress
      Communication                         management standards plus corporate examples of
                                            how the Council has publicised its stress
                                            management and sickness absence standards at
                                            management and employee level. The examples
                                            also evidence management action planning and a
                                            ‘strategic steer’.

7     Adult Services Specific               Evidence of directorate/schools specific
                                            interventions and application of corporate standards
8     City Service Specific                 (broken down into sub sections)

9     Schools Specific

4.2          The information provided within the above sections, was further divided into
             (a)     Primarily contributing to the prevention of work-related stress and
                     tackling employee stress in general.
             (b)     Primarily contributing to the management of sickness absence.
             (c)     Contributing to both.

4.3          The on-site audit took place on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th October 2007. Two teams
             of HSE inspectors initially interviewed officers with corporate roles in relation
             to WRS and/or MSA. One HSE team then concentrated on interviewing
             managers and employees from City Service, and the other HSE team
             concentrated on interviewing managers and employees from Adult Services.
             Staff Side representatives, and the chair of this committee, were also
             interviewed. The timetable for the on-site audit, showing the interview
             arrangements, is set out in Appendix 1 to this report.

4.4          The HSE have advised that the Council should receive the report arising from
             the audit by the end of 2007. The HSE will also send a copy of the report to
             the Staff Side.

Contact Officer: Alan Shepherd, Head of Health and Safety, extension 25223

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                                                                                                                                         Appendix 1

                    TUESDAY – 02.10.07                              WEDNESDAY – 03.10.07                             THURSDAY – 04.10.07
                TEAM 1                  TEAM 2                  TEAM 1                    TEAM 2                 TEAM 1                TEAM 2
           Plummer Room              Carliol Room            Heber Room              Plummer Room              Heber Room          Plummer Room
 9.00     Board member lead Head of Service –             Acting Head of          HR mgr & Snr HR           Employees – Adult     Employees – City
          for WRS/MSA       City Service                  Service – Adult         Officer– City Service /   Services (x3)         Services (involved
          Peter Bower             Ray Ward                Services                Absence Man               4 from direct care    in focus groups)
                                                          Cathy Bull              Champion                  provision & 2 from    2 from focus
                                                                                  Ged Gray & Angela         social work service   group covering
                                                                                  Wilkinson/ Michelle       split over this and   Customer Service
                                                                                  Gill                      next session          Centres
 11.00 Day to day lead            Staff side              Leads on WRS in         Lead for M stds pilot –   Employees – Adult     Employees – City
       WRS council wide           Paul Gilroy             schools                 City Services             Services (x3)         Services (involved
          Alan Shepherd &                                 Simon Hoban &           Helen Batey &                                   in focus groups)
                                  Hazel Cant
          Peter Jesson                                    Anne Shackleton         Michelle Gill                                   2 from focus
                                  John Gibson                                                                                     groups covering
                                  George Partridge                                                                                Contact Centre
                                  Jaci Carden – to
                                  be separately
 1.30     Occupational            Senior HR mgr           Senior Line mgrs –      Senior Line mgrs –
          Health                  responsible for         Adult Services (x3)     City Services (x3)
          Dr Black &              overseeing MSA          Cath Williams
          Amanda Scott            council wide
                                                          Stuart Pattinson        Steve Evans & Kath
                                  Beverley Elder                                  Moore
                                                          3.0 Cllr Doreen
 3.30     HR mgr and Snr                                  Line mgrs – Adult       Line mgrs – City
          HR Officer – Adult                              Services (x3)           Services (x3)             2p.m. – Wash up Session HSE Teams
          Services/ Absence                                                                                 and specified Council Officers.
                                                          Linda Thirkeld          Julie Scotland
          Man Champion                                                                                      Carliol Room
                                                          Phyllis James           Viv Hogg
          Ged Gray&
          Angela Wilkinson/                               Johnathan               Mandy Rudd
          Gary Daglish                                    Jameson

HSE team 1 = Graham Watson & Sarah Haynes ;                     HSE team 2 = Stephen Britton & Andrew Mulligan [ Andrea Robbins on 3/10/07 ].
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