It is important to note that the review was not a review of our HR department.
It is about the role each person has to play in making Brent Council the best
possible place to work. There are clear recommendations in relation to
employment policies and practice, and these require the action of the entire
organisation and crucially managers at all levels.
In any other organisation disciplinary action would have been taken against a manager found guilty of such conduct. Muhammed Butt, when challenged by members of staff on the issue at Brent Connects said the council had to follow 'due process' and make an Appeal.
Some Councillors suggested to me that disciplinary action could only take place when the Appeal process had been exhausted. A Judge found that the Council had no grounds for an Appeal but still no action was taken. Two legitimate opportunities to lance the boil missed.
Some have claimed that disciplinary action in itself would amount to victimisation or even a 'witch hunt', or would be to succomb to political pressure. This is a red herring. The Council owes a duty of care towards its employees and this includes ensuring that they are treated fairly in their day to day employment regardless of race, gender etc. Brent Council should have confidence that their own disciplinary procedures are robust enough to withstand such pressures.
Now the Council is in the position of having someone in charge of HR who has been found guilty of the above offences but is nevertheless in charge of recruitment and redundancies policies. Long term mprovements in processes and procedures does not address immediate issue.
Michael Pavey has done a thorough job within his limited remit, consulting widely with staff and apparently winning their confidence. One glaring ommission is consulting with the staff who have left the Council and examining any gagging clauses that were imposed. They, after all, are possible victims of poor employment and practice.
However, given the comments I have received on this blog regarding working conditions at Brent Council (many unpublished so as not to reveal identity or due to gagging clauses) as well as emails and telephone calls, soemtimes distraught, the following comment seems emollient:
This review finds that Brent is generally a happy and inclusive place to work. But there is plenty we can do better.
Im terms of HR practice the reasons for leaving are also important and for both BAME and Females dismissals are higher (second column)
These are perhaps some of the most important recommendations:
Finding: Generally, feedback from staff themselves suggests that practice is good; however, improvements can and should be made to employee management practice to achieve a more collaborative and inclusive culture.Engagement with staff suggests inconsistent application of policies and procedures, including as regards flexible working. There has clearly been great progress in implementing good management practice, but the Council should also seek to ensure that internal communication explain expected practice, underpinned by a clear explication of staff and manager competencies and behaviours.· At present, there are few reported incidents of bullying and harassment. The Council has an emphasis on informal resolution: according to the LGA this represents good practice. Consideration should be given to ensuring consistency, support and follow up within the informal resolution framework.· The Council lacks a systematic Council-wide approach to learning from HR and legal processes when complaints are raised; whilst this is not uncommon, we have an opportunity to make improvements. In addition, this may give rise to inconsistent management responses. Thus, though HR takes the lead, individual managers are responsible for learning from ETs and grievances, and reviews take place with HR and within departments. Improvements should be made in terms of cross-organisational learning, peer review and Council-wide improvements.· The Code of Conduct does not at present adequately articulate the behaviours and practice expected of managers and staff. Such behaviours should be clearly articulated, communicated and reflected in:· recruitment and selection processes· ongoing team and line management· appraisal processes· learning development processes and interventions.Addressing this presents an opportunity to emphasise the significant priority the Council attaches to valuing diversity.
The Full Report can be found HERE· Evaluation of practice and understanding of staff experience should be regular and Council-wide.· Internal communications should be strengthened to become a two-way flow of information. It is critical for senior management to be able to communicate values and good practice to the wider workforce. But it is equally important that communications enables the wider workforce to articulate their experiences to senior management. In two staff focus groups, more than half had not seen a copy of their service or team plan and participants suggested that improvements could be made to internal communications, including the ability for greater staff engagement and management visibility, for example through senior managers attending team meetings. This is increasingly important given the scale and pace of change. Managers themselves need to be supported to communicate effectively, but must also play the key role in staff engagement. Given the current and future constraints on funding, it is important that central advice and strategy is complemented by good practice within departments.