The public sector has rejected calls for big changes in the way it manages its staff.
Influential employers’ group the CBI last week insisted people management in the sector should be targeted as it urged prime minister Gordon Brown to make “far greater strides” in his public service reforms.
Neil Bentley, CBI director of public services, said: “As people’s expectations of public services change, so too must public service employment practices.”
He said state-funded employers needed to be more flexible, more efficient, boost productivity through better training and communicate with staff more effectively about reforms.
“One critical issue concerns public sector absence, which is 30% higher than in the private sector. New management techniques should be used to drive down the significant cost this involves,” he added.
But the Public Sector People Managers’ Association (PPMA) hit back, insisting people management in the sector was “excellent”.
Carol Mills, national lead on wellbeing at the PPMA and HR director at Lancashire County Council, told Personnel Today: “Public sector employment practices have already changed. The CBI is slightly out of date if it does not realise that.
“We are excellent at managing people in the public sector. We recognise that people are our best resource and that it is important for people to feel when they come to work they are valued and equipped with the knowledge and skills to do their job serving the community.”
Mills added that the public sector had recognised the need to tackle sickness absence rates. Many state-funded employers worked with occupational health and line managers to reduce absence, she said, as well as running preventative measures such as wellbeing programmes and medical checks.
“We know a number of private sector organisations do not record sickness absence, whereas local authorities have to publish figures,” Mills added. “I very much doubt we are comparing like with like.”