COVID-19 Workforce Survey, week ending 8 January 2021

This 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

This report is part of a series of monthly surveys of all councils in England and Wales collecting key workforce data on how the sector is responding to COVID-19. An online survey is emailed to heads of human resources, or a nominated contact, in councils from England and Wales on the second Wednesday of the month. 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 13 January 2021 and covers the week ending 8 January 2021. The overall response rate was 57 per cent and covered around a third of the total workforce.

Key findings

  • Some 38 per cent of councils reported recruiting additional staff (of any type including casual, agency, contingent, etc) in the week ending 8 January 2021. In total 1,625 additional staff had been recruited in responding authorities: the median number of staff per authority was four and the mean was 19.
  • More than half of respondent councils (129) have recorded deaths in service since lockdown. A total of 476 deaths in service were reported by respondents since the start of lockdown (cause not specified).
  • Twenty nine per cent of councils reported that they had furloughed at least one member of staff. In total, responding authorities reported there were 6,262 staff furloughed in the week ending 8 January 2021, which was 1.2 per cent of the current workforce.
  • The main reason given for furloughing staff was that the service had stopped (69 per cent) or that funding had stopped (29 per cent).
  • Some 63 per cent of councils had redeployed staff. In total, in the responding authorities there were 7,493 staff redeployed in the week ending 8 January 2021, which was one per cent of the current workforce. The median number of staff redeployed was six and the mean was 43.
  • Nine in ten councils (90 per cent) reported that they had at least one member of staff unavailable for work. In total, respondents reported there were 29,636 staff unavailable for work in the week ending 8 January 2021, six per cent of the current workforce. The median number of staff unavailable for work was 48 and the mean was 155.
  • Twenty two per cent of staff were unavailable through ‘self-isolation (other)’ and 46 per cent were unavailable due to ‘non-COVID sickness’.
  • When asked whether individual services had enough staff to run them normally or not, the worst affected services were schools and public health: 17 per cent and 12 per cent of single tier and county councils, respectively, reported these services were operating with severe disruption due to staffing numbers. A further 35 per cent of single tier and county councils reported that adult social care were operating with moderate disruption.
  • When asked to assess the council overall, in terms of whether there are enough staff to run services normally or not, 64 per cent reported they were not operating normally.
  • Councils were asked about the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing for staff. Eighty nine per cent reported they had about the right amount of PPE. Eighty three per cent said all the staff who need testing can access it.
  • Looking ahead, councils were asked if they were experiencing significant difficulties recruiting for some posts or not: 85 (41 per cent) said they were. Councils were subsequently asked to choose from a list of specialist occupations where they were experiencing difficulties: 75 per cent of councils were having difficulties recruiting children’s social workers, 43 per cent were having difficulties recruiting adult social workers.
  • Councils were asked to choose the five occupations or roles where recruitment difficulties were most acute. Fifty nine per cent of the councils who answered the question had acute difficulties recruiting children’s social workers.
  • Out of the councils who had said they had acute difficulties in recruiting children’s social workers, 43 per cent said they had both difficulty recruiting generally and difficulty recruiting the required expertise, experience or qualification.
  • Councils were asked if they are likely to recruit additional staff specifically to COVID-19 and/or the EU transition or not: 28 per cent said they were not likely recruit additional staff and a further 27 per cent said they did not know. Ninety two (45 per cent) councils said yes, they were likely to be recruiting additional staff. Of these, 40 per cent said it was ‘in response to COVID-19’, three per cent said it was ‘in response to both’ and one per cent said it was ‘in response to EU transition’.
  • Councils were asked to look ahead and think about staff and what they were considering doing in this current financial year and in the next one (2021/22). Out of the councils that answered this question 63 per cent said they were thinking of making no substantive changes within this financial year, and 51 per cent said they were not thinking it for 2021/22. Seventeen per cent of those that answered this question said that they were thinking of reducing staff numbers overall in 2020/21, and 24 per cent said they were thinking to do this in 2021/22.
  • Councils were asked to think about the COVID-19 vaccination and would they say that the staff who need the vaccine have had them or not. A total of 200 (97 per cent who responded to the survey) answered the question, of which 33 per cent reported that some of the staff who need the vaccine. Forty two per cent of councils said they didn’t know and 14 per cent said none of their staff who need vaccine have had it.

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