Why is home care employee turnover so high?

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.

‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England’ report by Skills for Care in 2022 showed the turnover rate for directly employed staff in the adult care sector was 29%, equivalent to approximately 400,000 leavers over the year. 

It’s an alarming statistic for a sector that is already facing such difficult challenges.

And while most of these leavers find employment elsewhere in the sector, the turnover rate is pretty much double the UK cross-industry average (15%).

Why does the care sector have such high staff turnover?

Travel – Workers that travelled further were more likely to leave their role. Care workers travelling more than 20km had a higher turnover rate (38.4%), compared to those travelling less than 1km (30.7%).

Problem retaining younger staff – Turnover rates amongst those under 20 was 52.6%. This is not a problem just in adult social care but also in other sectors. Many young people are perhaps using these jobs as a stopgap.

People leave soon after joining – Care workers with less than one year of experience had a much higher turnover rate (43.5%) than those with 10 years or more (15.3%).

Inexperienced leadership – The turnover rate of establishments where the registered manager had been in post for less than one year was 32.7%, which was higher than for those establishments with a registered manager in post for 20 years or more (23.2%).

Lack of training or chances for development – Care workers who received regular training and those with qualifications were less likely to leave their roles than those who didn’t.

Low-quality service – Establishments with the lowest score had an average turnover rate of 33.7%, compared to those with the highest score which had an average of 29.2%.

Pay disparity – 4 out of 5 jobs in the economy (or the 80% figure) pay more than jobs in social care, and the average care worker pay is £1 per hour less than healthcare assistants in the NHS that are new to their roles.

Zero-hour contracts – Workers were more likely to leave if they were employed on zero-hours contracts (33.9% turnover rate), compared to those that were not (30.8%).

Cost of living – The increase in the cost of living during 2022, particularly the cost of fuel, may also be influencing staff turnover. This could be a particular issue for domiciliary care services as the staff are required to travel between people’s homes.

We all need to help solve the problem

As a technology provider that strives to put care at the centre of everything we do, the problem of high turnover is just as worrying for us as bad code. Both can put those being cared for at risk and have a significant impact on the quality of care.

It’s why we try to think outside of the box with the software we develop, and why we work alongside care providers to make sure our software can do everything possible to help make care workers feel happy, satisfied and content in their roles.

How can we reduce high turnover in the care sector?

Smart travel – Better use of data to create more intuitive scheduling that helps choose the right employee to attend to the right client. From using GPS to tactically plan visits and using care worker and client preferences to plan schedules –a comprehensive care planning system can help providers put people at the centre of planning.

Inspiring younger staff – In our Generation Z article, we looked at what care providers could be doing to attract and inspire younger workers. Putting ‘purpose’ at the forefront of care and accelerating the use of technology within the role could be the key to success.

Getting people to stay – Evidence shows that healthcare employees are incredibly prone to burnout and fatigue. One way to combat this is to provide wellness care to improve health and wellbeing. Start by increasing day-to-day communication and gathering employee feedback using surveys.

Better leadership – It’s natural that knowing you’re doing well increases productivity. Getting glowing feedback can have a positive impact on work. Whether it’s a simple call, an email or an integrated complement form in a care management system – positive feedback pays off.

Track training and offer opportunities – Social care requires much more complex skills than it did even 10 years ago, so it is essential that businesses invest in the learning and development of people.

  • Investing in learning and development reduces the average turnover rate for care workers by 9.5 percentage points to 31.7% amongst those that received some form of training compared to 41.2% amongst those that hadn’t.
  • Completing qualifications leads to highly skilled and competent workers that provide high-quality care and support. 
  • Training and qualifications in the key areas of health and safety provide reassurance about workers’ confidence and competence.
  • Qualification achievements contribute considerable added value to providers and assist in workforce planning for the organisation.

Value-based recruitment – employers using values-based recruitment and retention approaches attract staff who perform better, with lower sickness rates, and achieve greater levels of success in developing the skills needed in their roles. This approach may also result in reducing the cost of recruitment and training, as well as reducing turnover.

And all of this can be brought together with a comprehensive care planning system – that can track employee qualifications, provide reminders for updates and expirations and help plan care around skills.

Aiming for ‘Outstanding’ home care – as the CQC transitions to its digital-first regulatory strategy, technology will play an even more significant role for providers striving to meet the criteria for the CQC’s ‘Outstanding’ rating – which could have a positive impact on employee retention.

Interestingly, Skills for Care found that turnover rates were not universally high in the sector. Around 20% of independent sector establishments (with 50 or more staff) had a turnover rate below 10%.

When asked why these businesses contributed their success to:

  • Investing in learning and development (94%)
  • Embedding the values of the organisation (92%)
  • Celebrating the achievements of both the organisation and the individual (86%)
  • Involving colleagues in decision-making (81%).

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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This guide provides a comprehensive overview of how our care management software will support your home care organisation in meeting the CQC’s five key questions, along with an in-depth analysis of the newly announced quality statements.

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