Kirklees Council is considering asking retired staff to return on a short-term basis to help ease the pressure on some council services amid a national recruitment crisis.

As vacancies in the UK job market hit a record 1.3 million, Kirklees Council is struggling to fill jobs particularly in catering and social care.

There is also talk of delays in the planning department, caused by a shortage of staff and a significant increase in the number of planning applications in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The council’s Corporate Scrutiny Panel heard from HR manager Michelle Moss on what the council is doing to recruit and retain staff.

Panel chairman Clr John Taylor (Con, Kirkburton) said many councillors were “hearing noise” about how long it was taking for planning decisions to come through.

“That’s not a criticism of any officers,” he said. “That’s just a consequence of volume. One of the suggestions was – and this may happen elsewhere where we have specific skills shortages – whether we could reach out to colleagues who have retired to see if they would be willing to come back for a short period just to help get through the volume.”

He added: “Someone who is retired, we could appeal to them because they worked for us for a long time and say: ‘We need your help just for a few months. Would you come and help us?’

“It’s that personal approach but it’s not to get them back into the workforce for good. I am conscious of the impact on officers of having that over-burdened workload continually. We need to find some way to break that cycle.”

Clr John Taylor

Clr Taylor’s view was supported by planning committee chairman Clr Steve Hall (Lab, Heckmondwike) who said: “Asking retired staff to come back to help out is a great idea.

“It’s something we did 10 or 15 years ago in Housing. We had a problem with a load of managers who all came through the ranks together and it came to the stage where a lot of them were retiring. Quite a few of them did come back, even if it was only two days a week, or three half-days a week. It did help us out.

“I know from a Planning point of view, while we are setting new members of staff on who are going to college for training, we are still losing high flying officers to the private sector. Now Covid is over everyone is getting stuck into building.

“Trying to keep our own staff is a bit of a problem. But in certain departments a trawl of former employees would be a good idea to see if we can get some back, even on a part-time basis.”

Ms Moss said there hadn’t been any specific discussions with the planning department about bringing former staff back but she added: “That’s certainly something we will pick up with Planning.”

Ms Moss told the meeting recruitment and retention of staff was a priority for the council and there were several initiatives ongoing including:

  • A ‘Talent Bank’ in catering to encourage potential recruits to sign up and be directed towards suitable jobs;
  • Trials of the recruitment website Indeed;
  • Radio advertising for catering and social care jobs;
  • Better links with the Job Centre;
  • An improved council Careers website to showcase jobs;
  • Jobs events planned for North and South Kirklees in October and November;
  • Greater flexibility for employees along with ‘welcome’ sessions for new staff and an emphasis on well-being;
  • Exit interviews to find out why staff are leaving;
  • A faster and more straightforward job application process.

Ms Moss said: “What the pandemic has taught us is that what’s really important to people who are looking for work is flexibility. It’s top of people’s wish list.

“We are very much trying to push that. Wherever it is possible in jobs, what are the possibilities around flexibility? How can we promote those?

“We are working with recruiting managers on trying to keep short-listing criteria to an absolute minimum.

“In a tight labour market we need to keep to a minimum what we expect from people to get them through the door, and talk to them in more detail during selection processes.

“We are working very closely with managers about the need for pace in a fast recruitment market. Previously we have talked about giving people a week’s notice or more for interviews.

“That’s not what people are looking for. They are looking for instant applications and almost instant interviews after that and it’s how we can keep pace with those expectations.”

There are currently more than 200 jobs available on the council website HERE.