Council scraps rigid hours in bid to cut staff turnover

Merton council is implementing a government-sponsored work-life balance
scheme to cut staff turnover. If successful it will be rolled out across the
whole of local government.

The council hopes that the scheme, which will go live in September, will
reduce staff turnover from its current 17 per cent to 12 per cent in two years.

The aim of the scheme is to scrap rigid work hours in local government and
allow staff to work more flexibly. While the opening hours of the council will
rise to 12 hours a day, staff can work flexible shifts as long as they notch up
35 hours a week.

The scheme will also introduce compressed hours and homeworking.

It follows a successful pilot scheme between February and May that scrapped
core hours for 100 employees in the council’s housing lettings and revenue and
benefits departments.

The council received a £50,000 grant to complete the pilot and is being
monitored by PricewaterhouseCoopers as a good practice case study that could be
rolled out to other councils.

The council bid for the grant from the DfEE’s Work-Life Challenge Fund
because it felt that staff morale was low, it was not seen as an employer of
choice or a best practice organisation.

Paul Holmes, HR director at the council, said, "Mapping working
practices to the needs of customers and staff is a must. There is no reason why
in the future the council cannot be open 24-7, certainly for paying bills.

"The scheme should make the council more attractive to work for and
help us retain staff."

The sickness rate for the departments in the pilot was cut by nearly half,
from 115 days to 60.

Holmes said, "Line managers were concerned that they would not be able
to monitor staff under the extended hours. Instead it meant that they sharpened
up their management techniques and stopped monitoring."

By Paul Nelson

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