April 6, 2020

Social care workforce: new recruitment lifeline?

Social Care: Now hiring

The social care sector faces significant workforce shortages as increasing numbers of care staff are forced to self-isolate, shield in accordance with Public Health England guidance or take leave due to increased risk to the health of themselves or their families.

Many providers report losing some 25% of their workforce due to coronavirus, which is extremely challenging at a time of existing staff shortages in the sector.

Care staff are critical to the national fight against coronavirus, and you need to plan for how you will find extra workers or volunteers to help manage the coronavirus crisis.

Government provides new lifeline

Over the weekend (4-5 April), the Government provided new guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Scheme), providing a possible lifeline to care providers struggling to recruit staff.

The guidance confirms that workers who have been furloughed under the Scheme can work for other organisations, subject to any restrictions in their employment contract, without adversely affecting their entitlement to 80% of pay while furloughed by their primary employer. This was not prohibited under previous guidance but has now been expressly confirmed.

This provides a significant opportunity for you to attract staff from other sectors which have furloughed high numbers of staff including retail, hospitality and leisure, transport and logistics. There are many suitable roles for these workers in the care sector, not just frontline care roles, and many people will have transferable skills that make them well suited to working in care.

The opportunity to boost their reduced earnings and provide a valuable contribution to the Covid-19 response would be attractive to many workers.

Although some workers will only be available to you for the duration of the Job Retention Scheme, others may be able to continue on a part-time basis after they return to their other jobs. Hopefully there will also be workers who want to make a permanent move to the social care sector.

How can you attract these workers?

The challenge will be creating awareness and directing furloughed staff from other sectors to vacancies in the care sector. A national social media campaign would be needed to see significant gains, but you can also run your own local and regional campaigns.

Another possible solution is Care Friends, an employee referral app from social care innovator Neil Eastwood, which you could use to recruit the friends and family of your current workforce who may have been furloughed from their roles.

Volunteers – a new resource?

Volunteers offer another significant opportunity for care providers trying to manage the pandemic. Large scale volunteering has not been prevalent in the care sector before now, but that is changing.

The National Care Force, a new platform connecting local volunteers to care providers facing severe understaffing, has already seen over 10,000 people sign up to help with various job roles required in the sector, including cooking, driving and clinical care.

The Government has also introduced a new emergency volunteering scheme under the Coronavirus Act 2020. It gives workers the right to take leave from work so that they can volunteer temporarily in the NHS or social care sector. The period of leave is unpaid and must be either two, three or four weeks long. There is no provision for employers to refuse leave.

Despite the leave being unpaid, the Secretary of State is required to establish arrangements for paying compensation to volunteers in respect of loss of earnings and travel and subsistence expenses. It is not currently clear whether this scheme will replace all lost earnings, will be subject to a cap or will consist of a flat rate.

This is an incredibly difficult time for you. We hope that these new recruitment opportunities will provide some relief and help grow a larger pool of potential workers and volunteers for the sector now and for the future.

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