COVID-19 workforce survey research report, week ending 2 October 2020

This is report is part of a series of bi-weekly surveys of all councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland collecting key workforce data on how the sector is responding to COVID-19.

Workforce

An online survey is emailed to heads of human resources, or a nominated contact, in councils from England, Wales and Northern Ireland on alternate Wednesdays.  The data requested relates to the week ending the preceding Friday.  The intention is that this collection is the single national source through which such data is gathered, and it will, as appropriate, be shared with government departments and others in addition to providing comparator information for councils.

This report relates to the survey sent out on 7 October 2020 and covers the week ending 2 October 2020. The overall response rate was 55 per cent and covered around a third of the total workforce.

Key findings

  • Some 33 per cent of councils reported recruiting additional staff (of any type including casual, agency, contingent, etc) in the week ending 2 October 2020. In total 3,028 additional staff had been recruited in responding authorities: the median number of staff per authority was four and the mean was 52.
  • More than half of respondent councils (107) recorded deaths in service since lockdown. A total of 268 deaths in service were reported by respondents since the start of lockdown (cause not specified).
  • Twenty-three per cent of councils reported that they had furloughed at least one member of staff full time. In total responding authorities reported there were 4,395 staff furloughed – full time in the week ending 2 October 2020, which was 0.9 per cent of the current workforce. The number of staff furloughed full time has gone down by nine per cent compared to the previous fortnights collection (4,854).
  • In addition, 22 per cent of councils reported that they had furloughed at least one member of staff part-time. In total respondents reported there were 2,249 staff furloughed part time in the week ending 2 October 2020, which was 0.4 per cent of the current workforce.
  • The main reason given for furloughing staff was that the service had stopped (71 per cent) or that funding had stopped (22 per cent).
  • Some 59 per cent of councils had redeployed staff. In total in the responding authorities there were 5,718 staff redeployed in the week ending 2 October 2020, which was one per cent of the current workforce. The median number of staff redeployed was four and the mean was 34. 2
  • Just over eight out of ten councils (83 per cent) reported that they had at least one member of staff unavailable for work. In total, respondents reported there were 23,834 staff unavailable for work in the week ending 2 October 2020, five per cent of the current workforce. The median number of staff unavailable for work was 35 and the mean was 128.
  • Seventeen per cent of staff were unavailable through ‘self-isolation (other)’ and 51 per cent were unavailable due to ‘non-COVID sickness’.
  • When asked whether individual services had enough staff to run them normally or not, the service most badly affected during the week ending 2 October was public health: eight per cent of single tier and county councils reported they were operating with severe disruption due to staffing numbers. Also badly affected were adults social care and schools, with 27 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively, reporting moderate disruption. Environmental health and children’s services also had notable levels of disruption.
  • When asked to assess the council overall, in terms of whether there are enough staff to run services normally or not, 56 per cent reported they were not operating normally.
  • Councils who had been under a local restrictions due to a COVID-19 outbreak were asked about the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing for staff. Eighty-two per cent reported they had about the right amount of PPE they needed; while 12 per cent had less than they needed. Forty-one per cent said all the staff who need testing can access it.
  • Looking ahead, councils were asked what they were currently considering doing about staffing within this financial year, 34 per cent said they considering increasing apprenticeships, but 16 per cent said they were considering reducing the overall staffing level.
  • Finally, councils were asked what they were currently considering in terms of staffing locations, 70 per cent answered they were considering increasing home working, 67 per cent were considering increasing flexible working options and 47 per cent were considering changing models of service delivery. Just under a third of councils (32 per cent) said they were considering reducing the number of physical workplaces.

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The cover of the research report - Decorative use
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