A New School Year: Stay Healthy! (Or Else)

Ministry of Education Service Delivery Project :

Attendance Support and Staff Wellness

January 20 2014:  Board Meeting
C2.  b) Attendance Awareness Motion from Human Resources Director [  Motion was tabled at OPPS January 13 / 14 until Secretary-Treasurer was present to answer questions; is present at this meeting. ] That the Board implement the Attendance Awareness Program and proceed to hire a Human Resources Advisor, Wellness and Attendance Awareness, to coordinate the program.    / Carried.  For: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, Orcherton     Against: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr

Information below from Ministry publication. Added emphases mine.

Attendance Support and Staff Wellness Initiative pilots will take place over the 2015/16 school year in seven school districts. The objectives of the pilots are to test a best practice Attendance Support and Staff Wellness program, carry out an evaluation, and use the findings to help inform a phased province-wide implementation starting in 2016/17.

The Attendance Support and Wellness Working Group, with BCPSEA in a project lead role, has been providing advice and input around the design, scope and implementation of the pilots, including development of:

  • a readiness audit tool to assist school districts with assessing their current state of wellness, disability management, and attendance support initiatives;
  • common attendance support and wellness policies and procedures that can be tailored to individual school district circumstances;
  • communication and training materials to help employees understand and identify with the program goals;
  • a consultation approach with unions, employee and other stakeholder groups;
  • a model for providing districts with access to centralized or regional medical expertise; and
  • Employee Data Analysis System (EDAS) Phase 2 changes.

Further Attendance Support and Staff Wellness details can be found here:  Frequently Asked Questions.

FAQ August 2015
Frequently Asked Questions

1.What is the “Service Delivery Project”?
The Service Delivery Project is an effort to find savings and efficiencies through shared delivery of services across BC school districts. The Ministry of Education, school districts and partners are working collaboratively, identifying opportunities in employment and labour matters, attendance support and staff
wellness, facilities management, transportation and procurement.

2.Why focus on attendance support and staff wellness in the K-12 sector?
In response to the 2012 Deloitte Report, a Phase 1 Attendance Support, Wellness and Occupational Safety Working Group was established in the K-12 sector to provide advice on the feasibility of the attendance support and staff wellness-related opportunities listed in the 2012 Deloitte report. The Working Group researched best practice models and met with numerous organizations (e.g.,
WorkSafeBC, Joint Early Intervention Service (JEIS), BCTF Health and Wellness Program, BC Public Service Agency, School District #23 WorkSafe Claims Management and BCPSEA). Members of the group also surveyed school districts and reviewed school district policies and collective agreements.

3.What is the overall goal of the attendance support and staff wellness initiative?
The overall goal is to create a culture in the K-12 sector where attendance support and staff wellness is part of the regular operations of schools and school districts, and:
  • employees are supported in ways that improve their ability to attend work and perform their job role to the best of their ability,
  • employee representatives are involved and feel their members are appropriately and fairly supported, and
  • it is recognized throughout the system that the work with and for students is improved by regular and consistent attendance and employee wellness.

4. What does attendance support and staff wellness entail?
A successful attendance support and staff wellness program will keep the above goal in mind and include attendance support, disability management and wellness initiatives. These three areas are interrelated and overlap at times. The attendance support part of the program is data driven to ensure all employees are treated in a fair and consistent manner. It allows school districts to identify and provide support while addressing any potential disability and/or accommodation obligations. A relationship and conversation led approach is used as a means to identify risks to employee health and wellbeing and assist in improving attendance. Attendance support is the promotion and monitoring of regular attendance at work and identifying areas where there may be non-culpable reasons for irregular attendance. Wellness support encompasses programs for employees that increase awareness of various wellness options and the creation of a culture that ensures employees have the resources and assistance they need to be successful and engaged at work. Disability management is the management of sick leave usage, short- and long-term disability and Workers’ Compensation claims.

5. What did the Phase 1 Working Group recommend?
The Phase 1 Working Group released a final report in April 2014. The general and specific recommendations are outlined on pages 22 and 23 of the report. The Phase 1 recommendations will be
implemented by the Phase 2 Working Group. Specific recommendations and implementation steps included:
  • school districts adopt common policies and procedures with best practice guidelines,
  • school districts have access to shared specialized expertise such as medical advisors and occupational therapists, through either a central agency or regional service, and
  • the Employment Data and Analysis System (EDAS) be enhanced to include the retrieval of leave data from school districts and school district software be updated to provide the additional data.
6. Who is on the Phase 2 Working Group?
Working Group Co-leads: One to two representative(s) from each of the seven pilot school districts / One representative from each of the three advisory school districts / One representative from the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) / One representative from the Ministry of Education, Service Delivery Branch / Additional specialized support as required
7.What is BCPSEA’s role in relation to the pilot?
BCPSEA will perform the project manager role and will be responsible for the overall delivery of the attendance support and staff wellness pilot, including:
  • working with the Ministry of Education and Working Group to develop a project plan that includes deliverables such as policies, procedures and guiding principles, communication and training plans and materials, absence data collection guidelines and an evaluation plan,
  • monitoring project progress and schedule,
  • leading consultation with union representatives on a provincial basis, and
  • providing training and information for pilot school districts to support local consultation.
BCPSEA will also be enhancing the EDAS system to include the collection of additional attendance data from school districts. This will include working with pilot school districts and vendors around school district software.
8. What are the Phase 2 Working Group’s deliverables?
The Phase 2 Working Group’s advice and recommendations will be used to finalize attendance support and staff wellness policies, procedures and guiding principles for use by the pilot school districts over the 2015/16 school year. A final report, to be delivered in 2015/16, will include recommendations to the
Service Delivery Project Steering Committee on provincial implementation of the policies, procedures and guiding principles, including centralized or regionalized shared specialist services. Data requirements will be identified and a plan prepared for collection and performance measurement.
9. When will the pilot take place?
The pilot will take place over the 2015/16 school year in the seven pilot school districts.
10. Are all school districts eventually expected to align their local attendance support and staff wellness programs with the recommendations arising from the pilots?
A final report on implementation and initial operation of the pilot program , to be delivered in the 2015/16 school year, will include recommendations to the Service Delivery Project Steering Committee and Ministry of Education on provincial implementation of the policies, procedures and guiding principles,
including centralized or regionalized shared specialist services. It is anticipated that all school districts will be expected to align their local attendance support and staff wellness programs with the common policies, procedures and guiding principles. The pilot school districts will continue to deliver and fine tune their programs.
11. What is the special purpose grant that was provided to school districts in March 2015 intended to support?
School districts will incur costs when they implement their attendance support and staff wellness programs. The purpose of the grant funding is to cover some of these costs. Based on the Working Group’s advice and experience, school districts interested in moving forward with their attendance support and staff wellness programs prior to the pilot completion, should focus the grant funding on the following areas:
  • Completing a readiness audit to assess the current state of staff wellness, disability management and attendance support initiatives within the school district (see FAQ #17 below for further details).
  • Making and implementing a plan to address gaps identified through the readiness audit:
  • staff wellness initiatives (e.g., reviewing data from benefit plan providers and tailoring staff wellness initiatives to some of the specific health difficulties experienced within the school district),
  • disability management (e.g., reviewing data, examining programs and processes that are in place, conducting a needs assessment and making recommendations for improvements),
  • attendance support (e.g., improving data collection and organization systems and processes to consistently and/or effectively identify attendance issues, developing and implementing a consultation plan to ensure key stakeholders and employee group input is sought and obtained, training supervisors on the program and conducting supportive conversations and developing and implementing a communication strategy for all employees), and
  • hiring and training staff for initial implementation and/or to ensure sustainability of the attendance support and staff wellness program.

School districts may want to wait until the pilot is complete before they move forward with changes and utilize the grant funding. They should also consider consulting with BCPSEA to ensure their plan to spend the funding is in accordance with the provincial criteria.

12.What is the timeline for spending the special purpose grant?
The funding is intended to be used between the time of disbursement (March 2015) and the end of the2017/18 school year.
13.  Our school district would like to move forward with ensuring attendance data is in place to objectively identify potential attendance issues. When will further details be provided about what attendance codes are being used and for what absences(e.g., sick leave for illness, sick leave for family matters)?
Data collection guidelines are one of the items expected to be available for pilot school districts to implement in the 2015/16 school year. Since the intent of the pilot is to gather feedback, there could be adjustments to the guidelines as the pilot progresses.  However, the draft guidelines will be made
available to school districts interested in moving forward with their attendance support and staff wellness programming. Further information will be available in the fall.

14. The Working Group will be providing advice and recommendations around centralized and/or regionalized specialist support services (e.g., nurse, occupational health, disability management, EFAP). Should school districts hold off on implementing individual programs in these areas until further information is available about possible centralized or regionalized services?
BCPSEA ,with assistance from the Working Group and pilot school districts, will be seeking to coordinate specialized support. School districts are asked to not make long term commitments to any of these service providers to allow for BCPSEA to pursue preferred rates in regions or centrally. Further information will be available in fall. BCPSEA can also work with school districts to address temporary supports.
15. Will the work of this pilot eventually replace the PEBT Joint Early Intervention Service (JEIS), BCTF Health and Wellness Program or other attendance support and staff wellness programs available at the school district level?
No. The work is meant to complement and not replace the existing programs at the provincial and school district level. The PEBT and union representatives at the provincial and local levels will be consulted to ensure alignment with JEIS and the BCTF Health and Wellness Program.
16. Are there any ideas for what school districts can do in the area of attendance support and staff wellness that can be sustained?
One idea is that under the current Pacific Blue Cross plan, online health assessments and wellness services are accessible through CARESnet. This service is available for all members and is entirely
confidential. The member creates an online profile, and receives an individual assessment of his/her health risks and how to take action to improve his/her health. The program also provides relevant links to community resources and supports available within the individual’s municipality or region. Further details
can be obtained through Pacific Blue Cross. School districts may also want to use the readiness audit tool (see FAQ below) to review their EFAP programs and ensure they are getting full benefit out of them.
17. When will the readiness audit tool be available for school districts to use?
The readiness audit tool will be available in the fall for school districts interested in using the tool before the pilot is completed and evaluated. Since the intent of the pilot is to gather feedback, there could be adjustments to the tool as the pilot progresses.
Persona addendum:  Harvard Business Review:  The Danger of Wellness Programs: Don’t Become the Next Penn State by Tom Emerick and Al Lewis, August 20, 2013

About Diane McNally