Westminster County Council extends employee assistance programme

Westminster City Council has decided to run its employee assistance programme (EAP) for a further 12 months, following a positive response to the service from employees and unions.

It launched the EAP in May last year to help reduce absenteeism among its 4,000 employees. Although the scheme was scheduled to run for two years, a break clause was included allowing the council to cancel it after a year if the EAP failed to produce a return on investment.

Since May, absence levels have fallen, and the EAP, which provides counselling with regard to work-related issues such as stress, is thought to have contributed to this. As a consequence the council has decided not to exercise the break clause.

Trevor Webster, strategic HR manager at Westminster City Council, said: “Staff are happy with the help that they are getting, and managers are happy with the level of support they are getting when dealing with difficult scenarios.”

The council is aiming to cut its absence rates to fall into line with the private sector’s average of seven days a year. Westminster City Council’s absence rate currently stands at 8.5 days per employee per year, down from 10 days a year before the EAP was launched.

“If you look across London councils, the average is 10 days’ sick leave a year, so we are below that, which is pleasing, but at the same time we are also a day and a half above our target,” added Webster.