Banksia Hill demonstrated lower levels of personal leave compared to the majority of prisons in Western Australia, with an average of 107.3 hours of personal leave taken per FTE in 2012. This is not an unexpected result, as prison officers have higher personal leave entitlements (140 hours) than YCOs (114 hours). It has been noted that higher levels of leave entitlement can result in higher levels of absenteeism, and while this may not occur in all agencies, in the Department there does appear to be a culture of employees taking their entire annual allocation of personal leave.
The 107.3 hours of personal leave per FTE at Banksia Hill comes close to, but does not exceed the 114 hours of personal leave that are available to YCO’s each year. However, there is an unequal distribution of leave taken by staff. An examination of personal leave records among youth custodial staff from February 2012 until the riot indicates that of the 245 staff members (98%) that took leave in this period 168 (67%) individuals took either their full or less than their annual personal leave entitlement. Hence, 31 per cent of staff in youth custodial took more than their annual entitlement in the year preceding the riot, with 21 individuals (8%) taking in excess of 200 hours of personal leave in the time period.
The leave taken by this 31 per cent of staff accounts for 62 per cent of all personal leave taken during the time period. The 8 per cent of staff who took in excess of 200 hours of personal leave accounted for 30 per cent of all leave taken. While previous research has found that a small percentage of the workforce can account for the majority of leave taken, this is quite a substantial proportion of the workforce taking elevated levels of leave. This places a burden on the majority of individuals who do not take large amounts of leave, particularly in circumstances where significant amounts of personal leave are taken at short notice.
Examination of the sign on sheets of uniformed staff in the 30 days prior to the riot corroborated the high leave statistics previously discussed. The sign on sheets indicated that on average, 8 uniformed staff were absent due to personal leave on any given day. This corresponds to approximately 10 per cent of the rostered uniformed workforce absent each day due to personal leave. Much of this leave is on short notice, and hence considerable staff resources are spent frantically attempting to contact people to cover for absentee employees each day. This also contributes to increasing resentment among employees and has a detrimental effect on teamwork. As one staff member said during this Inquiry “This would be a great place to work if everyone turned up”.