Council staff set for extra day off work in recognition of their efforts during the pandemic

Council headquarters.Council headquarters.
Council headquarters.
Staff with Scottish Borders Council are set to be granted an extra day off work this year at a notional cost of more than £300k in recognition of their 'exceptional response' during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When members of the full council meet next Thursday, March 31, they will be recommended to endorse the granting of a 'well-being day' as a way of rewarding local authority employees who have been flexible and committed since March 2020, ensuring that essential services continued to be provided.

If it is not practical for a staff member to take the day off they will receive a financial reward instead.

A report submitted to the committee, from Clair Hepburn, the council's director of people performance and change, asks members to consider a 'tangible gesture' in recognition of staff efforts.

It adds: "Options for providing employees with a demonstrable token of recognition are limited by cost and the difficulty in implementing it without disruption to the business.

"The issue of additional Covid-19 payments to some staff groups has been both controversial and divisive.

"The council has been at pains to emphasise the contributions of all its employees, choosing not to make an artificial distinction between front-line and 'other', and instead choosing a 'one council' approach.

"In addition, at a time when services are increasingly under financial pressure, and with very considerable uncertainty about the medium term financial outlook, recognition that has a direct financial cost to the council, such as a payment or a gift, may be viewed negatively by some, including the public.

"The sustained extent of the pandemic has had an impact on the well-being and resilience of employees across the council.

"In recognition of that, the reward of an additional day's well-being leave would enable individuals to take the day at an appropriate time during 2022 to meet their own personal well-being needs without disruption to service provision."

The financial implications of granting an additional well-being day to all staff notionally equates to £305,269.

This is based on lost productivity for all staff on the assumption they will be taking a day off work where they have been required to work.

For some services there will be further additional costs for casual/relief staff who are required to cover for the staff member.

Other rewards which were initially considered included social gatherings for staff, the installation of benches in major towns, restaurant vouchers and passes to local attractions, such as the Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels.