Agenda item

Employee Mental Health Update

To consider a report from the Director of Strategy and Resources setting out the Council’s approach to staff mental health and well-being support.


The Board considered a report from the Director of Strategy and Resources setting out the Council’s approach to staff mental health and well-being support.


The report highlighted a number of targeted interventions being undertaken by the Council, as follows:


·  Setting a clear policy, framework, and management system.

·  Continue talking, learning, and leading

·  Corporate Support

·  Data Capture and Reporting

·  Building Manager Capability

·  Managing absence and performance


To accompany this item a presentation was delivered covering the key points in the council’s approach to mental health and well-being support. In attendance for this item were:


·  Mariana Pexton, Director of Strategy and Resources

·  Andy Dodman, Chief Officer HR

·  Lisa Colver, Head of Health, Safety and Well-Being


By way of introduction the importance of health and well-being was highlighted, and it was noted that it is a key element of the Council’s People Strategy and work to support staff working for Leeds City Council.


The Board heard that the approach to mental health and well-being is continuously developing and that the role of managers in ensuring the success of the approach will be vital within the context of the Be Your Best management programme.


In response to comments and questions from the Board, discussion included the following:


·  Members were interested to know more about management approaches such as responses to feedback where colleagues say “I am fine”, whether trauma informed management techniques are used and encouraging the disclosure of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to inform how managers respond to staff in a more nuanced manner. The Board were informed of plans to expand the Be Your Best management programme which has to date focussed on EDI (for the mandatory element of the programme). This will move to focus on other areas of management such as performance management (as discussed with the board previously) and mental health, safety and well-being.

·  Members asked about correspondence to staff who are suffering from sickness absence and potentially adapting it to be more individually focussed. The Board were informed that work is ongoing with the Business Support Centre on developing the correspondence used in these cases to ensure it is better tailored and appropriately compassionate.

·  Responding to a query about how mental health first aiders are supported the board were informed that more work is required in this area. There is provision of counselling for the first aiders, but more could be done and this will commence through an upcoming conference for mental health first aiders to enhance support. Members expressed an interest in attending the Mental Health First Aiders Conference and this was welcomed.

·  Discussion moved on to pre-crisis techniques and what the Council is doing to support staff and deliver interventions. The Board heard that initial steps have been taken and more is planned through the Mental Health First Aiders Conference that is due to take place in November where this will be one of the areas of discussion.

·  The Board asked about any consideration that the authority had given to use of a four-day week to relieve stress and work related anxiety given that other organisations have used that approach to help staff manage work pressures. The Board were informed that it had been briefly considered but it is not in the Council’s plans particularly given the hybrid approaches that the Council has developed in recent years which can assist with staff workloads and providing work life balance flexibility.

·  Members noted that mental health and well-being are two different subjects and warned about conflating the two as they are distinct issues. In addition, members also emphasised that mental health encapsulates a range of conditions beyond perhaps the most commonly reported of stress and depression and wanted to see more of a focus on wider conditions as well as tackling stress and depression. In response it was acknowledged that there is a danger of compressing everything into ‘well-being,’ work is underway to address this within the Council through the appointment of a Mental Health Advisor who will be focused solely on mental health issues.

·  The Board also referenced cultural awareness which they wanted more of an emphasis on in the Council’s approach to take account of the different perceptions of mental health amongst the active groups in this area – it was acknowledged that this should feature in the approach and is a factor in the work being carried out.

·  Members received assurances on support available for the menopause. It is a key area of focus for the Council and the possibility of supporting initiatives such as Menopause Cafes was also covered. The Board requested access to any briefings available on this subject and suggested that consideration should be given to establish a menopause staff network that could focus on this issue in detail covering issues such as trans colleagues who often experience early menopause due to the hormone treatment. It was agreed that a discussion with the Women’s Voice and other staff networks could be taken forward to see if there is a specific group that could work with the Council on this issue. It was also noted that WYCA has been doing some valuable work in this area and that will be shared with attending officers.

·  Members asked about the breakdown by directorate in terms of access to the Vivup support that is offered by the Council. The Board were informed that social work services in Children and Families are a main area of focus followed by social work staff in Adults and Health services. There was a further commitment to look at the data in more detail to provide that breakdown by services or directorate.

·  In respect of home working the Board were keen to ensure that support is available to new staff and that they do not become isolated through home working approaches. It was acknowledged that hybrid working can carry some risks in terms of health, safety and well-being issues but also brings benefits through work life balance flexibility.

·  The Board also discussed staff survey results and those that are anxious or unhappy in their lives. Approximately 15% of staff have stated that they are not happy and more work is planned through data analysis to focus resources on those that are expressing these views.

·  The Chair asked about the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis on staff absence. The Board were informed that some of the free text responses in the recent staff survey covered this but that is still subject to ongoing analysis and it is difficult to accurately provide numbers on how many staff have had absences due to financial difficulties however, it was clear that this has had an impact on absence rates.




The Board noted the contents of the report and the ongoing work and progress to promote positive mental health and manage work-related stress and:


a)  Agreed to consider this item again later in the municipal year but as two distinct items, one to cover mental health and one on staff well-being.

b)  Requested a ‘you said, we did’ summary of ongoing work linked to well-being and mental health and covering issues raised by the Board.





Supporting documents: