In the end, care home providers will have to increase staff pay and improve conditions if they are to retain them.
The recruitment and retention of staff in care homes is the industry’s biggest problem at this time. The problem is so acute that we have seen providers returning contracts, and care home beds not being used because there are not enough staff to care for residents.
Central to the problem is poor pay and inflexible working conditions which has seen many staff employed in care homes move to the retail sector for better pay.
Against this background, we are now seeing more providers rising to the challenge and accepting that if they are to recruit and retain their staff, they will need to pay them better wages and improve work conditions.
Arcadia Care Homes
The South Wales-based Aria Care Home, the trading name of Arcadia Care Homes, has bitten the bullet, increasing pay for all employees by 30%, implementing a minimum hourly rate of £13.
The Newport business has 24 employees, about to rise to 26, and was accredited as a real living wage employer in 2021. At the time, it stated that this was only one milestone in ensuring it delivered the right level of pay for its workforce. The real living wage rate for 2023 was raised to £10.90.
Aria Care Home made its largest-ever pay increase to recognise that care worker roles are significantly more skilled than suggested by the current market standard. The organisation is also committed to compensating its team proportionately as part of a wider national conversation.
Recognition that pay has been delayed for far too long
Ali Al-Mufti, managing director of Arcadia Care Homes, said: “We’ve waited too long for the sector to take the steps to pay our workforce correctly, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to make the change.
“We have to take the stand that care is skilled work with a huge responsibility. The conversation is more important than just talking about a living wage and helping people to make ends meet. The living wage could be triple what it is, but it will still be the minimum level that unskilled roles can earn. That’s not how fair remuneration works.
“Increasing the rate of pay by 30% is a paradigm shift that puts our workforce ahead of other sectors that we’ve been forced to compete with. We’ve been fighting to make a meaningful change in the rate of pay for years, and I’m very happy that we’ve finally been able to implement the kind of pay rise that matters.”
In addition to compensation, the business operates four-day maximum working weeks, with 12-month rotas in advance in order for staff to best plan holidays and other elements of work-life balance. It also provides unlimited employer-paid counselling for any reason, work or personal, to all employees.
More providers will need to increase staff pay if the social care sector is to prosper
I have written in the past that research has shown there are many large providers who make profits from care homes. There is nothing wrong with this, as we are seeing improvements in the care home environment and in the quality of care. But it should still be possible to pay staff more than they would receive in the retail sector and continue to make profits.
Recruitment and retention of staff in care homes is a central issue that has challenged providers for many years. There now seems to be a growing realisation that support from the government will not solve all the ills faced by care home providers. Arcadia Care Homes have acknowledged that the sector has delayed for far too long the payment of staff wages above what they can earn in the retail sector.
Staff in care homes are entitled to a reasonable wage for the work they do which is significantly more skilled than currently recognised in payment terms. In the end, I am sure we will see more care providers paying wages that are commensurate with the skills and care provided by care home staff.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute
Bettal Quality Consultancy