New guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme issued this weekend by the Government can provide a possible lifeline to care providers struggling to recruit staff.
The guidance, says law firm Royds Withy King, confirms that furloughed staff can work for other organisations without losing furloughed pay from their primary employer. Furloughed staff in sectors including retail and leisure and hospitality have the potential to benefit in particular.
James Sage, Head of the Social Care team and a specialist employment lawyer at Royds Withy King, says the guidance provides a potentially significant lifeline to care providers, who have told us that they are losing some 25% of their workforce due to the coronavirus.
James Sage said: “The guidance confirms that workers who have been furloughed can work for other organisations, subject to any restrictions in their employment contracts, 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 care providers 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 customer-facing 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 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. There will also be those that want to make a permanent move to the social care sector.”
James adds: “The challenge, however, will be creating awareness and directing furloughed staff from other industries to vacancies in the care sector. A national social media campaign would be needed to see significant gains, but care providers can also run their own local and regional campaigns.
“Another possible answer is Care Friends, an employee referral app from social care innovator Neil Eastwood, which could be utilised by providers to recruit the friends and family of their workforce who may have been furloughed from their jobs.”
Volunteers – a new resource
James continues: “Volunteers offer a 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 more than 10,000 people sign up to help with various job roles 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.
James adds: “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, 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 care providers. It is hoped that these new recruitment opportunities will provide some relief and grow a larger pool of potential workers and volunteers for the care sector now and in the future.”