FIFE Council has one of the highest levels of employee absences in Scotland.

The Council’s Environment, Finance and Communities Scrutiny Committee considered a progress report on work which aims to reduce staff absence levels, but members were concerned to hear that levels have continued at a high spec.

Councillor Tim Brett, convener of the committee said: “Staff absence remains a major concern for nearly all council departments, so its important that elected members monitor the action being taken to address it.

“The Scrutiny Committee endorsed a programme of activities at the beginning of this year and we were pleased to receive an update on the project. However, despite the wide range of initiatives to improve employee attendance throughout the organisation, Fife still has one of the highest levels of absence amongst Scottish councils. This obviously puts extra pressure on those staff who are at work and can create difficulties in providing services".

Councillor Brett added: “As a committee we welcome the proactive steps that are being taken and recognise that there was a small reduction in absence levels earlier this year. Unfortunately this trend did not continue and attendance dropped again in May.

“The council is working on long-term measures to help improve the physical and mental wellbeing of staff, and absence is an issue we will keep under scrutiny. The committee asked for a further report in six months’ time.”

The council’s ongoing approach involves developing both management capabilities and promoting employee wellbeing programmes.

Activities include:

· Skills development for line managers, particularly equipping them for difficult conversations with team members

· Modifying processes around an employee’s return to work to support health conversations for common, but difficult, health situations such as cancer diagnoses;

· Piloting a ‘nurse first’ model for reporting sickness;

· Introducing self-referral for counselling support;

· Introducing new approaches to support, and raise awareness of the importance of, mental health in the workplace; and

· Promoting the physical activity team’s initiatives to increase physical activity.