Commission acts to cut absenteeism

The Charity Commission is to introduce a staff wellbeing programme to reduce absenteeism.

Last week's open board meeting heard that absenteeism was falling at the commission but remains well in excess of government standards.

A commission spokeswoman said afterwards that the wellbeing programme was still being constructed.

"A flu vaccination programme in November and health screening for all staff in the New Year have been confirmed and will be offered free of charge," she said. "We are looking at developing a wider wellbeing programme that will address specific health issues including alcohol, obesity, healthy eating and regular exercise."

Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the commission, admitted at the meeting that many staff felt undervalued after the recent "breach of protocol" that saw some new employees at the regulator's Liverpool office offered higher salaries than experienced colleagues (Third Sector, 30 July, page 4).

She said the mistake had been regrettable. "Fair reward and recognition and how people feel about working for us is important," she said. "This organisation is not going to move on without its existing staff. But we need flexibility to bring new skills in."

The board was told action had been taken to prevent the mistake being repeated, but was also warned that employee relations would be strained by forthcoming pay negotiations against a backdrop of government pay constraints and rising inflation.

The board was told that recent restructuring meant more than half of commission staff were now on senior pay grades and that 66 per cent of newly created positions had been filled by internal candidates.

Meanwhile, the commission plans to set up a group of advisers from charities concerned with equality issues to help it meet its diversity targets. The regulator's levels of female and disabled staff are higher than the civil service average, but BME representation is significantly lower.

The board's diversity champion, Tess Woodcraft, said: "We are out of the station but we haven't had that inevitable bit of the journey where it gets very uncomfortable. We need to be ready to face some difficult questions."

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