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Paying for the time of care workers fairly
By Christian Brøndum, CEO of staffing software provider Planday
In July of 2018, transformative legislation was enacted that would change the professional lives of care workers. The Court of Appeal overturned employment tribunal rulings that had meant care workers on ‘sleep-in’ shifts were entitled to minimum wage for each hour they were at work, effectively halving the workers salaries and the salaries. Charities and care providers stand to profit from the change, avoiding an estimated £400m back-pay bill, but it has left many of the UK’s essential care workers out of pocket.
What does it mean for care workers?
Lancashire County Council will be the first of the country’s local councils to react to the Court of Appeal’s ruling. The council’s current arrangements mean that shift workers are paid an average of £67 per shift. Following council decisions made in mid-June, those workers are due to earn an average of £45 per shift. These salary cuts are expected to save the council £7 million a year but they offer no further security to shift workers.
At the end of 2018, the care sector’s staff turnover rate stood at 30.7%, climbing by 7.6% since 2013. Employers have been struggling to find, recruit, and retain people with the necessary skills for working in the sector. These can include required and essential skills such as conflict resolution and physical intervention training, but also equally important skills such as teamwork, empathy, and communication. In reflection of the hard work done by the care sector’s workforce and in face of legislation that makes it increasingly difficult for them to work, employers have an obligation to take measures to make their lives easier. Care providers can offer employees more control over their working lives, and in turn encourage them to remain working with them.
Taking back control
With the care sector financially stretched as it is, providers, charities, and other kinds of employer will need to take other steps to improve the lives of their employees. Encouraging and enabling flexibility in their timetables and fostering high levels of communication between their team members and their managers are management decisions that can easily and positively impact the lives of workers, creating a workplace where workers have a much higher level of control over their time.
An increase in flexibility of this kind will discourage residential care workers from opting to work for agencies instead, removing a key factor of employee attrition. Improved communication structures also ensure that employees’ pastoral needs are met in the workplace and additionally allows them more oversight and more say in their schedule, resulting in greater knowledge of how much they stand to earn.
With this in mind, technology can have a transformative effect on the way care homes manage their staff. Cloud-based software has been shown to enable businesses across all sectors to provide online and mobile platforms which place more control in the hands of the employee.
By providing permanent workers with an open platform which can be accessed on the go, employees can more easily communicate with each other, enabling easier swapping of shifts as well as other features of a flexible workplace. This can result in greater staff retention and higher employee satisfaction. Efficiently managing employees’ rotas not only helps to ensure they are not working overtime without being paid, it also means that their pay is recorded correctly and that mistakes can be avoided.
Whilst for a long time, the care sector has invested in technology that takes care of patients, it’s time for employers to invest in technology that takes care of employees. Although Lancashire County Council’s cost-saving realisation of the Court of Appeal’s ruling will indubitably save money, care homes should look to other methods with a more positive effect on employees as a first measure.