Professional Comment

Overcoming Recruitment Challenges In Residential Care

By Chris Harber, Head of Immigration, Boyes Turner (www.boyesturner.com)

From acute staff shortages and low retention rates through to resourcing from overseas and frankly, a perception problem, recruitment is a daily issue that residential care employers must navigate. The reasons behind the care recruitment and retention crisis are well-documented, including historic and extremely low pay, compounded by the cost-of-living crisis, a lack of career development and training opportunities as well as poor staff morale, often matched by long hours and burn-out.

So where do care home employers start when it comes to redressing their recruitment strategies?

Tighten up your recruitment processes
It’s easy to say “recruit carefully and slowly” when you’re not faced with a consistent staffing challenge impacting the quality of care and service you can offer. But by tackling your recruitment strategy over the longer-term you will be able to remove immediate pressures on your talent pipeline.

Taking the longer- term view and hiring the right person for your business – from culture and personality fit perspective – can save you time further down the line. This can be as simple as ensuring you have a thorough background check system in place, to guide your hiring decisions as well as increasing retention rates.

Look at your visa compliance checks
It might seem obvious but – when recruiting overseas staff – right to work checks should be done before the individual starts work. EU workers will need to show they have either pre-settled or settled status and those with a temporary right to work will need to have their visa status checked.

From April 2022 all visas must be checked digitally via https://www.gov.uk/check-job-applicant-right-to-work.

If you employ any staff on student visas, make sure they’re not exceeding their maximum permitted hours of 20hours / week during term times.

Any more than this is a breach of their visa conditions. Overtime, sleeping nights and on-call hours (if at the place of work or sufficiently restrictive) will count towards their total weekly hours. We recommend requesting a copy of their university term dates at the start of each academic year to enable compliance.

With modern slavery a very real and alarming feature of care homes today, ensure you have also implemented a watertight policy for this, including relevant identity checks as well as training of staff.

Build your employer brand
Alongside the ethics of being a good employer, there’s a commercial advantage too – in a competitive marketplace, care homes with strong employer brands will attract the best talent, which means they can deliver the best care for their residents and their families. All this fuels your reputation – in a market where reputation is a challenge.

In an industry where staff are often treated as disposable, developing a culture of appreciation is also vital: showing people they are valued supports engagement, productivity, and loyalty. And this needs to be cascaded across all levels – from carers to catering and cleaning teams as much as management and leadership.

Create a culture where your people thrive
Again, a powerful way to recruit people is through culture, a place where people can thrive at work.

Make sure your employees take their full holiday allowance to both protect staff health, wellbeing, and work-life balance.

Ensure staff get sufficient Breaks: they should comply with Working Time Regulation 1998 (WTR) requirements or, if this is not possible, offer sufficient compensatory rest instead. Employers should check that staff who are working for other employers are still getting sufficient rest breaks between roles and not exceeding the maximum permitted amount of night working. Remember, sleeping nights and on-call shifts will count as working for WTR purposes (if at the place of work or sufficiently restrictive)!

In a market where training and career development are under-valued and hard to access, prioritise professional development for your teams.
An effective recruitment strategy in today’s care sector requires that employers ensure they prioritise the things that potential staff truly want – a positive workplace where people are valued, can thrive and perform to the best of their ability – safely and fairly.