home care

In the spotlight: Why is home care employee turnover so high?

The National Care Forum’s annual survey of staffing found that too many employees are leaving the home care sector, creating a crisis which is already having an impact on the services that many clients receive.

According to the survey, turnover rates are still consistent at around 20%, but the most worrying aspect is the so-called ‘churn’ rate, which is where staff leave within the first few years of their employment. This rate has gone up for a third consecutive year, with almost 48% of home care staff leaving after less than a year in the job, and a staggering 73.5% leaving within two years – that’s almost three quarters of the workforce.

These turnover rates are also creating a problem with an ageing workforce. Almost half of all care staff are over the age of 45 – with just 12% under 25. These figures have worrying repercussions for the future – within the next 20 years, half of the country’s current home care staff will have retired. There are not nearly enough employees coming into the sector to make up the numbers and ensure that clients receive the standard of care they need.

So why are employee turnover rates so high in the world of home care? One of the first reasons appears to be low wages. Many home care employees still earn less than minimum wage for their job, because they are not paid for travel time between client locations. This can result in employees effectively working eight or ten hour shifts, but only being paid for six or seven hours, such is the amount of time they spend in transit.

Temporary or zero-hour contracts are also a problem – and not only for the employees. Clients using home care services need consistency and continuity when it comes to their carers, and with turnover in staff currently at higher levels than ever before, clients in busy areas can end up with new carers assigned to them every few months. For those with memory loss or illnesses like dementia, this can be highly confusing and even frightening.

Balancing work and home life is also a problem for many home carers, who work demanding shift patterns and often put in more than the recommended hours as stated in the Working Time Regulations. Many employers need to improve their workforce management skills – otherwise their team is liable to burn out, or indeed, move onto a new sector where their shifts will be more relaxed.

Many elements of the home care sector need urgent attention, but if the problem with staff turnover is not rectified, we could be facing a real crisis in years to come.

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