New Absence & Wellbeing Procedure for Cumbria– Are You Up To Speed?

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Earlier this year, we helped one school cut its sick absence rate by 90%. Now a new Absence and Wellbeing Procedure marks a radical departure from its predecessors, and presents an even greater challenge for headteachers wanting to reduce absence. So, what does the change mean for you, and how can we help?

Every school has a duty to manage its services in the most cost effective and efficient manner. That includes being committed to the aim of maintaining the health, safety and wellbeing of its employees as far as practicable, while recognising that there may be circumstances where it is necessary to manage absence to secure full attendance at work.

Principles

The new system is based on the following principles and has been designed to:

  • Maximise employee attendance and engagement at work

  • Promote employee health, safety and welfare; encouraging and supporting employees to manage their own health, safety and wellbeing and to take responsibility for their attendance at work.

  • Secure effective and efficient utilisation of all staffing resources

  • Explore reasons for employee absence in order to prevent or minimise the possibility of the absence reoccurring

  • Address any underlying employee welfare problems

  • Never ignore sickness

From a practical perspective, the new procedure also aims to ensure appropriate occupational health and medical advice is obtained; that schools comply with good employment practice and adhere to the law; that employee attendance records are kept accurate and up to date and that agency costs - and the need to use externally provided workers - are reduced.

Perhaps the biggest departure from previous procedures comes in the language and focus of this final ‘block’ of principles, some of which feels familiar, and some of which is strikingly different:

  •  Ensure that short term absences do not go unnoticed

  • Ensure prompt action is taken if the absence is work-related

  • Develop/maintain an atmosphere that encourages people to come to work

  • Deal with each person as an individual – getting to know them will assist in exercising managerial judgement

  • Handle attendance problems promptly and sensitively, in a supportive manner

  • Treat all staff fairly and consistently

  • Reduce the impact on other employees and teams in terms of increased workloads

  • Sustain harmonious employee relations

Key Changes

Management of short term absence now takes place over 4 stages, with Health Review Points (triggers) leading to:

  1. Oral warning

  2. Written warning

  3. Final written warning

  4. Dismissal

There are some exclusions when calculating absence, such as ‘Planned Medical Treatment’ ‘Urgent Medical Treatment’ and the newly introduced ‘Disability Leave’ which constitutes 10 days paid time off in a rolling 12 month period (conditions apply).

Long term absence (28 days +) is also treated differently, with no defined timescale and no warnings, although there is still the need to ‘manage’ this via other means.

What do the changes mean in practice?

Interestingly, there is no transitioning from one procedure to another – this procedure replaces all previous ones with immediate effect - which means that you will need to look at the records of staff currently off sick to establish where they fall in the new procedure. Similarly any new episodes of absence will need to be looked at in context, to establish what this means for the individual.

Making sense of the changes  

There is a lot to consider when any new procedure is introduced. However, the new Absence and Wellbeing Procedure, now in force, is radically different to its predecessors, leaving heads with even more to digest than usual.

 To help, we are running a series of free Absence Management Toolkit Workshops on the following 6 and 7th November in Carlisle and Cockermouth.

Helping schools manage change

The Driven Employee has a long track record of success in helping schools manage change, and especially in terms of absence management.

 In just one school in the North West, we helped a new headteacher cut sick absence from 86.5 days in April - September 2017 to just 9 days over the same period this year, a 90% reduction. 76% of staff had no sick absence at all. We can help you achieve the same improvements.

To make a start, contact us.

Kate Armstrong