The Employee Relations and Policy Manager outlined the key points of the Temporary Workers report, highlighting that spend in Quarter 3 (October – December 2021) had increased by £232,729 from the previous quarter. This increase had resulted from a higher number of leavers during Q3, which had required engaging more temporary workers. On recruitment, vacancies were usually advertised internally first and then externally if they could not be filled by internal candidates or where there were skills shortages. A number of advertised positions had attracted no applicants, and some roles such as qualified social workers and planners were consistently hard to fill on a permanent basis. The Council’s position in this was not unique, as there were widespread difficulties currently with local authorities struggling to recruit into these specialist roles. There were workforce plans in plan in social care in particular to try to address the recruitment and retention issues.
A minor error in Table 3 in the report was noted, where the percentage figure for October 21 should read 16% and not 22% as given.
Members commented on the accuracy of the recorded reasons for staff leaving and raised concern about the impact the financial issues had on staff morale. It was acknowledged that staff leaving numbers had been relatively high in the quarter covered by the report, and statistics on reasons for leaving were taken from feedback from staff and exit interviews. The Employee Relations and Policy Manager confirmed that all staff including temporary workers were included in staff surveys, and that another survey should be due in the near future. The Committee recognised that it was a natural feature of the workplace that staff would leave for other positions, but Members highlighted the importance of trying to retain skilled staff wherever possible and ensure recruitment programmes emphasised the many positive aspects about working for the Council, including the benefits of the professional challenge and personal development opportunities employees coming to work in Slough would receive.
Suggestions from Members also included having plans to attract people into Council roles on apprenticeships or similar schemes, and outreach in schools or universities to offer career progression. The Employee Relations and Policy Manager expressed support for these suggestions and reported that there were currently 24 apprenticeships across the Council with hopes to increase this number, and also several networks and partnerships with local educational and other borough partners.
Members requested further statistics or details on the following points:
- The number of current agency-filled posts which were covering long-term sickness absences
- The cost difference of employing an agency staff member in a role as opposed to a permanent staff member
- Further detail and information on how the current ratio of agency staff (at 20% of the total workforce) compared with previous years at Slough Borough Council and with other local Councils
- Further details and statistics on the agency workers employed in specialist roles (which were omitted from Chart 2 of the report)
This information would be collated and provided in future reports to the Committee.
At the conclusion of the discussion, the report was noted.
Resolved – That details of the report be noted.