Sunderland Council opts for flexible work scheme

The City of Sunderland Council has started work on one of the biggest public
sector work-life balance projects after gaining DTI funding.

Sue Stanhope, employee development manager at the council, hopes that by
next summer its 14,000 strong workforce will be more satisfied and work more
flexibly as a result of the scheme.

Measures under consultation include job sharing and annualised hours, which
it hopes will help reduce sickness absence, improve performance and lower
recruitment costs.

Stanhope said she wanted the council to become the employer of choice in the
region, while improving the service to the public. "Being the best means
attracting, recruiting and retaining a diverse range of people," she said.

The council has begun one-to-one coaching and a series of workshops with
senior managers to help them learn more about flexible working after receiving
£50,000 from the Government’s Work Life Challenge Fund.

The results of the annual staff survey revealed that more than half the
council’s workers wanted more flexibility, with a better work-life balance, but
managers were concerned this would threaten performance.

Stanhope believes the current process of consultation will lead to a new
flexible work culture which will benefit staff and public services.

"Investing in people as individuals is key to us succeeding, but we
have to balance this with the needs of the council and the ability of managers
to deliver the service," she said.

By Ross Wigham

The council is considering

– Home working

– Job sharing

– Term time working

– Care leave

– Annualised hours

– Flexible working

– Reduced hours

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