Rewards and Recruitment

Dan Hayes, Chief Executive of The Orders of St John Care Trust, discusses the impact of the increase to National Living Wage on recruitment within the care sector. When the National Living Wage increased on 1st

April 2018

for those aged 25 and over, there was, understandably, considerable concern within the care sector about the impact on an already financially overstretched industry.

At The Orders of St John Care Trust, we firmly support the principle of the National Living Wage. It’s good for society; it guarantees a minimum living standard and is a solid attempt at fairness. Ultimately, we believe our dedicated workforce should be fairly rewarded for their hard work and we hope this increase will bring about a number of benefits.

The large number of unfilled roles in the social care sector is, without doubt, a major challenge for care homes. With approximately 80,000 employment vacancies in England at any one time, and around 27% of employees leaving the sector every year, many care homes end up relying on expensive agency staff. This isn’t financially viable and creates a problem for residents, who need continuity of care.

Looking at the figures above, the pressing need to bring more people into social care jobs is obvious. The increase to the National Living Wage should help make these roles more attractive, particularly for people who have a vocation for caring.

At the moment, many rural care homes can struggle to fill roles as employees have to travel long distances, and the costs of this can be prohibitively expensive. We hope that this will also be countered, in part, by an increased wage packet.

Another long-term benefit we hope to see is an increase in retention, as well as in the number of part-time candidates, especially those with childcare costs to meet. We know care

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can be a great career path for the right people and we hope offering the National Living Wage means we will be able to retain those people for longer, allowing them to develop great long-term careers.

However, there is a major concern about the impact of increased workforce costs on the social care sector already struggling with a lack of sufficient funding from local authorities. The question remains as to how the sector will fund the 17% (£1.25 per hour) increase to the National Living Wage expected by 2020. This considerable pressure on profit margins means there’s a potential for providers to spend less on residents. Undoubtedly, our priority must always be providing good quality care for residents, and a significant part of this is having motivated, trained employees.

Ultimately though, the increase does not resolve the fundamental issue of low pay. It is my belief that social care should not be a National Living Wage profession at all. The roles are complex, physically and mentally demanding, oſten carrying inherent risk and unsociable hours. The other side of this is that they offer huge fulfilment, but this is no excuse for paying less.

It should be a priority for our sector to demand more reward for our care workers. In achieving this, we will resolve many of the quality challenges we face, we will make the profession more attractive to employees, and we will enhance the public perception of what we do.

The truth is that, as a first world democracy, we can afford it; we just have to value it more highly.

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