Days lost to long-term sickness more than doubled at the Scottish regulator last year, accounts show

Days lost to long-term sickness more than doubled at the Office of the Scottish Charity Register in 2020/21.

The Scottish regulator categorises long-term sickness absence as more than 20 days off work, which rose from nearly 118 days in 2019/20 to just over 300 at the end of 2021, according to its latest annual report.

But short-term absences fell from about 161 days to nearly 148.

The regulator reported an overall total workforce of 48, including 10 members of staff working on a part-time basis in 2020/21.

Its accounts show that it follows the Scottish Government’s absence management policies and procedures and engaged with occupational health partners to ensure staff could get appropriate support.

All long-term absentees have since returned to work, the accounts show.

An OSCR spokesperson said: “We cannot provide any further information regarding the specific nature of absences. Due to the size of the organisation, any long-term absence can disproportionately affect the overall rates.”

The majority of OSCR’s budget was spent on staff costs of nearly £2.5m from a budget of £3.3m, and its reported operating costs were £3.82m.

The accounts show there was an increase in the number of registered Scottish charities from 24,882 in the previous year to 25,230 at the end of 2020/21.

However, the report noted: “Whilst we cannot be certain, we believe that some charities have not been able to hold the formal meetings required to agree removal, and on that basis, we anticipate higher than average removals once lockdown eases.”

There was a reduction in charities registered, down to 817 from 874 in the previous year.

The number of charities failing to provide annual returns and accounts within 12 months of their accounting year more than trebled from four to 13 per cent in 2020/21.

This was likely due to the pandemic and the limitations this imposed on charities to perform their statutory duties, said the report.

The number of concerns about charities the regulator received decreased from 620 to 426 during the year.

The report said: “Following initial assessment, we determined that it was appropriate for us to act in only 43 cases, which is a 60 per cent reduction on the previous year.”

Additionally, only two whistleblowing complaints were made in 2020/21 compared with seven in the previous year.

In response to its accounts, OSCR said it continued to make significant progress in delivering the agenda it set out in its Corporate Plan over the course of the year, including introducing a new organisational structure and significant steps toward delivering its digital strategy.

Maureen Mallon, OSCR’s chief executive, said the pandemic had created a challenging backdrop to all of its work, but teamwork has helped equip the regulator for the flexible, hybrid working approach that will underpin every successful organisation in the future.

She added: “We hope that this report shows the progress we have made. It has only been made possible by the talent and hard work [of] a fantastic staff team, underpinned by the positive backing of our board.”

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