By Lucy Law, senior HR manager at Hugh Jones Solicitors (www.hughjonessolicitors.co.uk)
The care sector has been at the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic – thrust under the spotlight of the world’s media as it tackled an ever- growing list of challenges; all the while, fighting to protect society’s already most vulnerable as their health and welfare became even more compromised.
Running in parallel to the clinical matters has been a whole host of new employment requirements and their related HR issues. From the sudden spike in demand for extra support workers, new policies to draft, procedures to follow and the constantly changing government guidance – the pandemic has rewritten the rulebook for HR profes- sionals, case managers and support workers alike.
It has also provided a catalyst for change, enabling a more person- centred approach to care and reinforced the importance of strong, yet professional relationships between support workers, clients and their families. Here, Lucy Law, senior HR manager at Hugh Jones Solicitors – England’s largest independent Court of Protection firm – explains how outsourced HR services can help relieve some of the pressures of Covid-19 while building a strong foundation for quality care delivery post-pandemic.
“Direct employment – where the client is the employer and the HR team act on their behalf – is becoming more common and offers a progressive approach to working within the sector. However, there are no clear standards set out for directly employed staff at present, meaning employees may have no guidance or rules to work to in terms of the care they provide.
“This can be troublesome, particularly given the amount of new guidance introduced since the pandemic.
Working without professional guidance can easily lead to difficulties when an employment issue arises and management can often be costly – especially when clients are faced with charges from case managers and HR specialists. Working collaboratively avoids the need to offer secondary advice and reduces the likelihood of misinterpretation.
“Just as a case manager is trained to identify requirements for support in a clinical setting, we are trained to spot and address employment issues. Early detection and resolving of HR issues has a direct correlation with retention of support workers and the quality of care delivered. It allows for clear boundary setting and the effective management of relationships between all parties – client, family and care giver. This is key to a sup- port worker’s success and by entrusting a HR specialist to handle anything employment related, it frees up both support worker and case manager to focus on the client’s clinical needs.
“Direct employment also promotes consistency – something we all crave during times of unrest. While care plans are entirely bespoke for each client and their family, directly employed support workers work towards a common goal, with the same standard practice principles in place. They feel better supported, which leads to improved staff welfare, reduced absence and better retention. As well as improved care, clients also benefit from specialist input from HR and a clinical lead without additional cost.
“Ensuring vulnerable clients receive the highest level of quality care in a dignified and cost effective man- ner is our ultimate aim. And, as we emerge from Lockdown 2.0 and enter a new year, I’d encourage every support worker to consider how their professional lives may be improved. If there are gaps in service provi- sion, difficult relationships or unknowns around their rights as an employee, outsourced HR support could be the answer – for all involved.”