If you work in social care, and let’s face it if you’re reading this blog you probably do, then you will understand that the last few years have been tough. These tough times have been compounded by the staff shortages in social care which have been running at around 10.6% - the highest recorded vacancy rate since records began in 2012-13.
New figures released by Skills for Care (SfC), The size and structure of the adult social care sector and workforce in England (skillsforcare.org.uk), suggest this vacancy rate has dropped to 9.9% which is good news for the sector. This means however, that there are still 152,000 vacancies in a workforce of 1.8million.
The figures within the SfC report also demonstrate that while the sector employs 20,000 more people than last year, staff turnover in the sector only reduced from 32 to 30%, with many people leaving the sector for jobs elsewhere.
If we accept that the average staff turnover rate for UK employees is about 15%, and around 12.5% in the NHS, then social care employers might do well to consider staff retention as being at least as important as recruitment in managing vacancies.
Why do people leave social care?
There is little doubt that the ill-considered and short-lived ban on unvaccinated staff working in social care during the COVID-19 pandemic led to the biggest exodus of staff from the sector, with substantial numbers never returning.
That said, the Nuffield trust in 2022 identify the reasons people leave the care sector, both residential and domiciliary care, include:
• Poor employment conditions.
• Uncompetitive pay.
• Zero-hours contracts.
• Poor working hours.
• Stress and burnout.
• Poor progression.
Why improve retention
As the marketplace for new staff appears to be improving, with SfC reporting 20,000 new staff in the sector in the last year, why would hard-pushed providers want to spend time retaining existing staff? There are several answers to this:
• Recruitment is time consuming and costly.
• New staff need training, mentoring and competency assessing and many will drop out of care early.
• Existing staff have had money and time spent on their training and their abilities are known.
• Regular staff provide continuity of care and consistency within the service.
• Where retention is good, staff tend to be happy and happy staff provide better care.
How to improve retention
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, identify some simple strategies for retaining employees all of which care services could successfully adopt:
• Be flexible. Where the needs of the service allow, enable part time hours, different start times, annualised contracts and ensure staff are not overburdened with work.
• Treat people fairly. Don’t give the best assignments, or rotas, to favourite staff.
• Consider staff wellbeing. There are lots of initiatives around to help support the wellbeing of staff, e.g. additional leave after a period of service, birthdays off work, have a reward scheme, keep an open-door policy.
• Enable career development. This means providing access to training and development and enable staff to try new roles where this is possible.
• Consult employees. Keeping staff in the dark about plans for the company is one certain way of breeding discontent. Getting staff involved in decision making, where appropriate, gives them a sense of belonging and people who belong stay in post.
What have the CQC said about it?
In case any providers are under the misapprehension retention does not matter, they only need read the CQC’s state of care report from last year. In this report, the CQC identify the impact of poor staff support and therefore staff retention in a service they rated inadequate because of high volume of risk arising from high agency usage
Failing to spend time on staff retention means some care businesses will always carry large staff vacancies. Staffing vacancies lead to more work for other staff, which is tiring, and agency use which is expensive and does not support continuity of care.
Providers and registered managers need to take staff retention seriously. Retention is at least as important as recruitment, is cheaper and better for staff and Service Users.
Bettal Quality Consultancy has a comprehensive and regularly updated suite of policies, procedures and risk assessments, including for recruitment and retention, to support busy registered managers and their teams in the provision of CQC compliant care.
If you would like to know more, browse our website, https://www.bettal.co.uk, or get in touch:
Peter Ellis MA MSc BSc(Hons) RN
Bettal Quality Consultancy