As we all know, care homes were hit badly by the pandemic. The virus spread rapidly throughout the majority of homes in Britain. Many carers risked their lives for care home residents, dedicating all their energy to ensuring their safety and wellbeing. Despite widespread recognition for their hard work, working conditions in some care homes remain unsuitable…. We’re here to answer the question, what are working conditions like in care homes? And what are poor working conditions anyway?
What are poor working conditions?
Many workplaces will see at least one aspect of poor working conditions in their company. Creating poor working conditions simply means that one or more of the following are either disrespected or ignored completely:
- Hygiene factors
- Health and Safety
- Employee Benefits
- Responsibility and Accountability
- Occupational Stress
- Work-life Balance
- Commuting and Travel
- Organizational Culture
- Performance Management
- Job Security
If you are managing a care home and you believe one of these is falling behind in standards, it’s time to get help. Poor working environments leads to poor staff retention, high recruitment costs, and low quality of service.
As far as sectors go, the health and care sector continues to demonstrate poor conditions in a number of ways.
The staff turnover rate in the care sector is 27% – almost twice the average rate for other UK professions. Due to the amount of people leaving the profession, we would need to attract 1.6 million health and social workers in 2022 to have a sufficient amount of workers.
More than a third of staff in residential facilities say they are unlikely to still be working in residential aged care in five years’ time.
Care workers – particularly home health care workers – are disproportionately more likely to be foreign-born, which gives them even less power to negotiate for higher wages or better working conditions.
Public spending is still 3% lower than a decade ago (2010) in the care home sector.
The latest official data for England shows there are 112,000 vacancies – over 7% of the social care workforce in England.
Nearly a quarter of the 1.5 million people working in the sector are on zero-hours contracts and pay is often the minimum wage.
Perhaps the most damning statistic is that 72% of carers reported mental health issues as a result of their work.
Human Rights Act & CQC
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the regulator that monitors and inspects all organisations providing care to ensure standards are being met. The Human Rights Act means regulators, including the CQC, have duties to ensure their actions respect and protect people’s rights.
The CQC aims to respect diversity, promote equality and ensure human rights to ensure that everyone using health and social care services receives safe and good quality care.
You may assume that the priority is on the residents, but they also cover the staff. This regulation is in place to help improve working conditions and ensure that standards are being met.
What are the concerns if there’s a poor working environment?
The UK has an ageing population and the pressures on the care system will only increase.
Poor conditions for home care workers mean elderly and disabled people can be vulnerable to neglectful or abusive treatment. This may be because the staff are overworked due to labour shortage causing mistakes to happen.
There may not be enough staff working in care homes to train others meaning care plans may not be properly followed. It might just be that employees lose their interest and the job no longer being a vocation to them but a chore.
Staff become so stressed by the relentless demands of their jobs and working environments that they end up going on sick leave or leaving altogether. This increases the labour shortage issue but also put more pressure on the current workforce creating a vicious circle.
There is a knock-on effect for the health service if the care system is supporting fewer people, and only those with the highest needs. People will likely neglect themselves and end up in hospital emergency departments.
What can managers do about it?
Increased digitisation can help alleviate some of the administrative tasks. New technologies can help, with robots doing more than delivering meals to rooms. HR or Health & Safety software could minimise the time staff spends on tasks and prioritise elsewhere.
A strange result of digitisation is that with assistance from virtual reality they can deliver emotionally intelligent companionship. However, this is still a long way off being the sole delivery of companionship. Elderly residents are much more likely to reject this and want human interaction.
Among the recommendations is an urgent call for a review of how 12-hour shifts affect staff mental health and wellbeing and patient safety. So, evidence shows that 12-hour shifts are associated with poor sleep and wellbeing among staff. Unsurprisingly, it also shows that it lowers quality of care for patients; However, some staff prefer them as they allow for more flexible working patterns.
More Government funding is needed so that care homes can invest in equipment and technology that can make care workers job more efficient. With more funding, care homes can also recruit and train more carers, further decreasing the staff shortages.
Many carers do what they do as they are fulfilled by their role – it is not just about the money for them. This means that investment into other reward benefits that can greatly improve the home. Happy employees, happy residents.
How we can help…
Here at Wurkplace we provide HR and H&S advice and support, conducting annual audits, risk assessments, employee surveys and induction advice and documentation to identify any poor working conditions in your company that may affect the overall employee performance.
We also offer Performance Management Training with one of our Level 7 CIPD qualified HR consultants tailored to your business, sector and needs. For more information on how we can help you, just get in touch. You can use our online form, or give us a call on: 0330 400 5490.
Currently practising all the aspects of Human Resources including employee rights, discrimination, how to manage grievances and disciplinaries.