To present new policies to the HR Policy Handbook (report of the Executive Manager People and Public Protection enclosed)
Consideration was given to the report of the Executive Manager, People and Public Protection, which presented information on a number of new policies to the HR Policy Handbook.
Career Break Policy
Members were advised that the Policy had arisen due to a request from a staff member for a career break. It was noted that many other employers (including some local authorities) had a Career Break Policy in place. It was stated that it had a benefit in terms of recruitment and staff retention.
Members considered the information and the following issues were raised:
· Councillors mentioned that the 26 week continuous service threshold needed for a career break seemed short. Officers responded that this was only a request system, and that the request would not necessarily be approved by managers if they felt the requester could not take the break. It was mentioned that the decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis.
· Councillors responded that they felt the 26 week threshold should be moved to a year. All Councillors agreed that a years’ service as a threshold to request a career break, rather than 26 weeks, was preferable.
· Members stated that they felt the Authority needed the policy in order to deal with these requests. Additionally, they questioned if requesters could gain employment during these breaks. Officers answered that the break was unpaid and the break would not cover any paid work. Councillors questioned how the Authority would police those who take employment during the break –especially if they went abroad.
· Councillors questioned what level of control members would have over this policy. Officers responded that changes to the policy would need final approval from Full Council.
· Members asked if a person could request this break more than once. Officers responded that an individual could make additional requests. However, the approval of such requests would be at the managers’ discretion.
· Councillors wanted to know if a Manager’s denial of approval would be recorded so that if there was a change in management, a record of previous requests was available. Officers answered that requests would be kept on personal HR files.
· Councillors asked what the request notice was. Officers answered that there was no number agreed at the time of the meeting, but that it could work like current annual leave policy, i.e. an amount of time equal to the request must be given as notice.
Stuck Not Sick Policy
Officers provided an overview of this Policy, and Members stated that they were happy with the Policy as it stood.
Alcohol, Drugs and Substance Misuse Policy.
Officers gave an overview of the Policy. The Panel considered the information and the following issues were raised:
· It was stated that testing would be carried out on a ‘just cause’ basis rather than on a random basis. Councillors questioned whether ‘just cause’ was sufficient to cover all relevant employees. It was stated that some supported the ‘just cause’ policy, and the need for confidentiality. Members also asked who would be responsible for deciding if ‘just cause’ applied and reporting. Officers answered that both of these responsibilities laid with managers.
· Councillors also mentioned that they felt that employees would be more cautious if they felt there were random checks, as a test could occur at any point. They also asked if the Policy could include both ‘just cause’ and random tests. Officers responded in the positive. Councillors agreed that this was optimal.
· Some members asked that others consider the financial implications of random testing. Members wondered if the Council could have its own testing kit, rather than having to rely on a costly third-party.
· The Panel favoured random checks, with ‘just cause’. It also asked, that the Authority should purchase an in-house testing kit.
a) That the report be noted, and;
b) That the threshold for requesting a career break be set at 1 years worth of continuous service, rather than 26 weeks.
c) That a request notice be added into the Career Break Policy
d) That the Stuck Not Sick Policy be agreed.
e) That the drugs testing protocol, set out in the Drugs, Alcohol and Substance Misuse Policy be based upon both ‘Just Cause’ and random checks. And that the Authority investigate procuring its own in-house drugs testing kit.