There appears to be a growing trend of NHS and care workers leaving their jobs for roles that offer better pay and rights. This comes at a time when society needs its care workers more than ever before. It is likely that a combination of low wages, the rising cost of living and the extreme demands of the work itself are creating a perfect storm. Some health professionals are fearing a genuine humanitarian crisis in this coming winter, as the energy crisis hits our most vulnerable citizens and our most lowly paid but highly valued care staff simultaneously.
We have received feedback from many people who work as carer’s. They are united in believing that action is needed now to sustain the caring workforce. Issues like lack of practical training undermining the confidence of new recruits, together with experienced carers having to devote significant time to supervise those in training, were regularly cited. These and other systemic issues are driving committed care workers to hand in their notices and seek roles that enable their basic personal needs to be met.
Our research tells us that it is unacceptable terms and conditions that are driving care workers out of the profession, not love for the job of actual caring. Home care workers are often employed on contracts whereby they are not paid for the time taken to travel to and between clients. This can result in care workers being paid for up to 10 hours less time each day then they spend working. In 2021, reports stated that thousands of care workers had left their positions to seek better paid, but less fulfilling work in emerging retail markets, solely to enable them to meet their own basic costs of living. This inexorable drift away from the caring professions to more highly paid work with better pay and conditions is compounding the growing staff crisis.
Care Home and Home Care Operators have warned that if this continues, 170,000 vacancies could appear by the end of the year. Underlining the struggle to recruit and retain staff amid a UK-wide labour shortage, a care home manager stated that Amazon’s newly opened Nottinghamshire warehouse was able to attract care staff to work for them with offers of 30%+ more pay. For example, a Care Home close to the Amazon Warehouse local lost a staff member paid £9.30 an hour to a job there for £13.50 an hour. Furthermore, companies are further incentivising care staff to join them by offering attractive joining bonuses of up to £1,000. Since April 2021 three-quarters of care home operators reported an increase in staff quitting with the key reasons (highlighted through interviews) being a desire for greater pay and less stress.
The labour market is becoming increasingly competitive, with hospitality employers also offering opportunities too for those who may prefer to work as professional carers if the pay, conditions, and career prospects were improved. Care staff pay rates are nothing shy of woeful and stagnant. According to the charity Skills for Care pay rates are constrained by levels of council funding and the per-person public spending falling since 2011. Care workers can be paid as little as £8.50 in independent care homes as recorded by a survey in 2020. It is essential that a “new deal” for all care workers is agreed and that all care workers are valued and developed in their careers. Failure to address this by Government risk the continued exploitation of care workers. Our membership tells us, regrettably, that a failure to properly address immediately this will mean a continued draining of skilled, committed, and experienced care workers away from the profession, as they have no choice but to leave for jobs that pay sufficient wages to allow them access to a decent standard of living.