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2021 Minimum Agency Rates and National Living Wage – The Facts

2021 Minimum Agency Rates and National Living Wage – The Facts

Living wages, page freezes and the cost of living have all been high on the agenda this year – as many frontline social care workers face heavier demands and are recognised as imperative to the nation’s health.

However, it’s well worth thinking about how your agency hourly rates stack up, and whether the contingency staff you rely on are being paid fairly…

Because it’s a question, many organisations rarely have time to think about, and could make a massive difference to your staff retention stats!

In this article, we’ll review:

  • The true cost of PAYE employment (and why it’s so much more than an hourly rate of pay!).
  • What it means to be a minimum wage organisation.
  • How the real cost of living compares to the UK minimum rates.

Add in IR35 to the mix, and 2021 looks likely to be a year when we all take a moment to think harder about equality, parity and the welfare of our teams, and in no sector is this so crucial as in social care.

UK Hourly Social Care Rates of Pay: The Breakdown

First off, let’s check out the figures. In April 2021, the National Living Wage increases, by 2.2% or £0.19 per hour.

That includes a new provision for workers aged 23 to 24, whereas currently, you fall into a lower pay band if you are between 21 and 24 (the highest National Minimum Wage at the moment applies to workers who are 25 and over).

Why does that matter so much to care homes and social care employers?

Because most agency staff who work in the care sector are over 23, and therefore it’s likely that some of your contingency staff are being paid at the bottom of the scale.

The National Living Wage is the minimum you can pay somebody, which has applied to anybody aged 25 or older in this past year. Now, the new pay scales apply that living wage to everybody from age 23 and above.

Here is a quick illustration of the 2020 hourly minimums, and how they’re changing in April:

Employee Age National Minimum Wage April 2020 - March 2021 National Minimum Wage April 2021 - March 2022
Apprentice £4.15 £4.30
Under 18 £4.55 £4.62
18 - 20 years old £6.45 £6.56
21 - 22 years old £8.20 £8.36
23 - 24 years old £8.20 £8.91
25 or over £8.72 £8.91

Now, OUTT is paving the way for a better future for social care employment, and we strongly believe in supporting our professionals and providing rewarding career opportunities.

Therefore, it’s about deciding what rate of pay is adequate to compensate our incredible candidates for the skill, compassion, expertise and diligence they bring to every shift.

And we back that up by paying a minimum, to all social care employees, across the spectrum, of at least £10 per hour – and we’d like to make it even higher!

If you’d like to learn more about whether it is possible to live a good quality of life on a minimum wage, you can check out Living Wage, who does just that.

They calculate that the UK ‘living wage’ – i.e. what you need to earn an hour to live comfortably – is £9.50. Sadly, even with this new increase, the legal minimum still falls short of that by over 6%.

How to Calculate the True Cost of PAYE Employment

Next, we’ll work through the ‘true’ cost of employment. The vast majority of social care workforce managers rely on agency staff to cover urgent shifts, holidays and illnesses or back up their teams when demand runs high.

With IR35 coming into force from April 2021, it’s more crucial than ever to assess each regular member of agency staff and bring them onto PAYE payroll if the criteria are met.

In many cases, employers and registered nurses don’t wish to do so; sometimes because of the related on-costs. In more cases, they have chosen to work flexibly to have better control over their shifts, career and working hours.

OUTT is a fully compliant IR35 employer, taking the strain away from care facilities and offering the same reliability and flexibility as a traditional agency, but with costs fixed at a static 10% to keep agency staff employed on their own terms, and reduce agency staffing costs for employers.

One of the significant issues in social care agency staffing is that there is often a distinct lack of transparency in what an agency pays the worker, and what they charge the employer. We want to change that.

Employment costs can add up to 30% to the hourly expense, with elements shown below as an example for typical care home staff based on the current average pay rate:

Role Hourly Rate Holiday Pay (12.07%) National Insurance (13.8%) Apprenticeship Levy (0.5%) Pension Auto-Enrolment (3%) Total On Costs True Hourly Cost
HCA - Days £8.72 £1.05 £1.35 £0.04 £0.26 £2.70 ££11.42
HCA - Nights £10.00 £1.21 £1.55 £0.05 £0.30 £3.11 £13.11
RGN £18.00 £2.17 £2.78 £0.09 £0.54 £5.58 £23.58
Days
RGN - Nights £21.00 £2.53 £3.25 £0.11 £0.63 £6.52 £27.52
Nurse in Charge - Days £20.00 £2.41 £3.09 £0.10 £0.60 £6.20 £26.20
Nurse in Charge - Nights £23.00 £2.78 £3.56 £0.12 £0.69 £7.15 £30.15
Role Hourly Rate Holiday Pay (12.07%) National Insurance (13.8%)
HCA - Days £8.72 £1.05 £1.35
HCA - Nights £10.00 £1.21 £1.55
RGN £18.00 £2.17 £2.78
Days
RGN - Nights £21.00 £2.53 £3.25
Nurse in Charge - Days £20.00 £2.41 £3.09
Nurse in Charge - Nights £23.00 £2.78 £3.56
Apprenticeship Levy (0.5%) Pension Auto-Enrolment (3%) Total On Costs True Hourly Cost
£0.04 £0.26 £2.70 ££11.42
£0.05 £0.30 £3.11 £13.11
£0.09 £0.54 £5.58 £23.58
£0.11 £0.63 £6.52 £27.52
£0.10 £0.60 £6.20 £26.20
£0.12 £0.69 £7.15 £30.15

So, do you really know how much your agency is paying your contingent staff?

Do you think it’s feasible that their agency commission rates include all of those on-costs that staff are entitled to?

The problem is that if an agency is charging anything below £11.42, rising to £11.68 from April, it’s distinctly possible that, either:

  • They are knowingly making a loss on each hour of employment, or,
  • Your staff are being paid beneath the legal minimum, or,
  • Agency workers are not being provided with their fundamental employment rights.

In general, we’d advise that any rate below £12 requires further investigation – particularly with regulations tightening up with the new employment laws being introduced.

What Does Being a Minimum Wage Organisation Mean for Your Care Facility?

We appreciate that for many social care employers, the news of a pay increase can feel like another pressure on a strained budget.

Still, we’re here to demonstrate that you can save a substantial amount on recruitment costs and staff training by paying your staff a fair wage!

Being a minimum wage employer, whether directly or through an agency, can cost you a lot more than 2.2% in the long run:

  • Staff who feel they are unfairly paid are much more likely to seek work elsewhere.
  • Low rates of pay can lead to low morale and a lack of commitment.
  • Workers struggling with income might find it harder to respond to urgent shift requirements or deal with any tasks that expand on their remit.
  • Productivity is proven to be higher in satisfied employees – correspondingly; low pay means lower work rates, the need to hire more staff, or pay for more hours, to complete the same amount of work.
  • Recruitment costs can be high, so replacing staff means an additional cost and time – from interviewing, advertising, reviewing CVs, training, and induction periods to ordering new uniforms.
  • Managers can struggle to continually train new team members, leading to lower skill levels, lack of sufficient training and inadequate care standards.

For OUTT, our commitment to an hourly rate of pay far above the minimum isn’t just about recruiting the best quality candidates, who want to stay with us.

It’s about long-term returns for our social care employers, who evaluate their staff and find that, the better the rewards, the better the job satisfaction, the higher the standards, the higher the skill level, and the happier the workforce.

  • If you’re not sure what your care home staff agency pays?
  • Or the rate seems to be suspiciously low?
  • If you’re concerned about your staff retention figures, and why recruitment is costing so much?

We hope we’ve given you some guidance to get to the bottom of those issues.

For more information about the OUTT way of working, and to get on board with an IR35 compliant agency who provide a best in class service for both employers and our candidates, get in touch or register today.

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Reduce Agency Spend on Social Care Recruitment

Reduce Agency Spend on Social Care Recruitment

Let OUTT show you how to reduce agency spend on social care recruitment – control your agency staffing budget, reduce costs, and streamline your rota!

Agency staff are the backbone of the social care sector, providing vital support for care homes and social care organisations that need to fill urgent vacancies quickly. Contingent workers are usually able to respond fast to staff shortages, provide cover for holidays and sickness absences, and plug gaps in the workforce when crucial short staffing can be a crisis for a social care facility.

However, the costs of advertising, interviewing, recruiting and conducting right to work checks can put tremendous strain on budgets and workflows, with workforce managers struggling to keep up with demand, while retaining high standards of staffing.

OUTT aims to change the way recruitment, working, and staff retention is managed, with a new model created in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis to address the critical staffing shortages deepening across the social care sector.

Social Care Recruitment – Reduce Agency Spend

The first factor in appointing quality agency staff is in recruitment; and traditional adverts in local press not only cost a fortune, but also often fail to engage with the key staff you hope to reach.

Bland, uninspiring job adverts don’t convey the value of the opportunities on offer, and so often we work with employers who follow the same recruitment template, advertised in the same places, which hasn’t been a successful recruitment strategy for many years.

  • Digital recruitment is cheaper, faster, and more effective at reaching a younger workforce who increasingly look for job opportunities online.
  • Dynamic, exciting adverts that explain what perks and benefits you are offering are more likely to garner responses than following a traditional template.
  • Remember that your recruitment strategy is the first impression you make with potential applicants, so think about the culture of your social care organisation, and how you want that to come across to candidates.
  • Don’t make a job ad just about what you want from an applicant; explain what you are offering in return.
  • Think about your own online presence; remember that most jobseekers will research your organisation before applying!

In a sector where quality professionals and enthusiastic trainees are in high demand, you need to stand out from the competition, and leverage digital recruitment in a way that delivers the response you need, from the candidates you want to hear from.

OUTT is a next-gen recruitment app connecting skilled candidates with quality employers, to bridge the gap between workforce demand and employer engagement.

Having seen the issues with traditional recruitment, we have designed a new, digital, interactive and comprehensive app that covers every aspect of recruitment, in a contemporary and streamlined way to make advertising your shifts faster and easier – advertised directly to a pool of vetted, qualified candidates.

Streamlining Social Care Applications

Once you have addressed your recruitment strategies, the next step in finding the social care staff you need is in identifying the best way to review applications, and interview your short-listed candidates. This process in itself can be time-consuming, and again, digital innovation is the key to making the whole task faster and more effective.

Traditional social care recruitment works like this:

  • You list an ad on a jobs site, or in the local press.
  • Candidates have to email or post a CV and covering letter.
  • The workforce manager needs to manually read every application.
  • Once they have a short-list, they then need to contact each individual candidate.
  • Candidates must be invited to interview, and then the time dedicated to meeting each applicant.

When you have an urgent vacancy, or need to cover a shift now, this process is unviable, and is often an unnecessary strain on social care organisations that don’t have the spare time or resources to allocate to recruitment.

There is a different way!

OUTT offers employers a way to list their shifts, vacancies and short-term requirements digitally. Candidates receive direct access to information about the post, and this can be quickly matched with skills and qualification requirements, without the manual vetting process.

Digital application processes are faster, and more accessible to modern workforces who want a one-click solution to sending their details, and replaces the traditional use of application forms and CVs that can be extremely difficult to compare.

The OUTT app is designed for mobiles and handheld devices, and enables applicants to apply for shifts, and employers to filter local candidates and make them an offer, in just a few clicks.

Reducing Agency Spend Budgets

Recruitment can be very expensive indeed, and when you build in the advertising costs, the time required to interview and vett candidates, and agency fees, it can be disproportionately expensive to hire agency staff. That said, short-term workers are vital to most social care settings, and so controlling those costs is essential.

OUTT offers a more cost-effective solution to traditional recruitment agencies, both streamlining recruitment and selection processes, and cutting down on the costs associated with finding high-quality social care agency staff.

  • Reach out to professional candidates for any variety of job requirements.
  • Manage your preferred candidates to choose the best applicants, and make instant offers for shift cover and positions.
  • Access live compliance documentation and receive the assurance that OUTT has thoroughly vetted every candidate, including right to work checks.
  • Upload urgent shift requirements for a rapid response from a 24/7 recruitment service.
  • Authorise timesheets digitally, reducing time, costs and paperwork.

Not only is the service cheaper, but more efficient in every way.

By harnessing digital recruitment and applications, you save on the costs of agency fees, while also cutting out the time required to review CVs, manage communications and carry out due diligence checks.

Balancing Permanent Roles with Short-Term Demand

The other essential factor when looking for social care staffing is quality.

Quality is key when it comes to excellent care services, highly trained staff, and building a reputation as an outstanding organisation. Therefore, continuity with skill requirements is vital, and can be a challenge for care home managers to balance out when looking for short-term agency staff to complement their existing workforce.

OUTT also considered this obstacle, and how we could make it easier for social care managers to find the staff they are looking for, and avoid the pitfalls involved in recruiting permanent or long-term staff who might turn out not to be the right person for the role.

Here’s how it works:

  • Select candidates who match with your requirements from our pool of applicants.
  • Offer shifts and placements quickly, with a digital offer process.
  • Review your staff, and leave feedback on their skills, competencies and work.
  • If you find the perfect person and want to offer them a permanent role, simply make the offer through the app!

This ‘try before you buy’ system and review option resolves the challenge of finding the best quality social care staff; and you can assess past reviews as left by other employers before you decide whether to offer a candidate a shift.

By working with agency staff before deciding whether to offer a permanent role, you have the absolute confidence that you only take on the best long-term staff, who you already know deliver exactly the standards of care and attitude that will fit in seamlessly with your workforce.

For more information about OUTT, and how we help social care employers reduce and manage their agency spend, visit us online.

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IR35 for Care Homes – Implications 2021

IR35 for Care Homes – Implications 2021

After a false start earlier this year, the new IR35 UK tax legislation concerning self-employed workers looks set to take effect from April 2021 – having been postponed more than once and this time due to the Coronavirus pandemic, look at the implications of IR35 for care homes in particular.

Given the substantial impact of IR35 for care homes, there is a great deal of concern throughout the sector about how much this change will increase the hourly cost of agency nurses, which could be as high as 30%.

The issue here is serious, since many care homes, and indeed many social care facilities, rely on contingency workers to cover staff shortages, vacancies, temporary cover and increased demand.

– So, what can we do about it?

Here, the OUTT team has clarified what IR35 means in practice, what quantifiable impacts it is likely to have, and how care home managers can prepare, and keep control of their staffing budgets.

Calculate your cost of IR35

What Does IR35 for Care Homes Mean to Staffing Budgets?

The crux of IR35 for care homes in particular, is that it sets out new rules under which professional workers can be classified as self-employed.

Other tests determine when those same workers must be treated as an employee – regardless of whether they carry out additional work, or wish to operate as a self-employed professional.

The number of registered nurses working via a staffing agency could be as many as 50%. What that means, is that many registered nurses currently working through agencies as limited company contractors may fall foul of these new rules, come next April, and be subject to tax and National Insurance deductions at source.

Not only does that affect the ability of an agency nurse to determine how they manage their shift work, with the flexibility to work across multiple agencies at the same time, but it means that payroll costs will soar for care homes.

Here’s what that looks like:

  • A self-employed nurse is employed through an agency, and chooses which shifts they accept, with full control over their career.
  • If they fall into the employment category, the care home (i.e. the end employer, not the agency) is required to pay them through PAYE payroll, applying all the on-costs that entails.
  • Care home payroll costs could increase by as much as 30% per agency nurse – inclusive of holiday pay at 12.07%, employers National Insurance at 13.8%, pension auto-enrolment at 3%, and the apprenticeship levy at 0.5%.

While it seems clear that IR35 is intended to promote the right of regular casual workers to be entitled to all the employment benefits of a full-time member of staff, it conversely has a significantly negative impact on contingency workers who wish to remain so.

Care home managers now face the challenge of navigating increased demand and a higher staff to patient ratio, with potentially disastrous budget pressure when IR35 comes into force.

Which Social Care and Healthcare Facilities are Impacted by IR35?

There are rules around which employers are required to carry out the IR35 ‘tests’.

Each contingency member of professional staff should be assessed, with an immediate switch to PAYE payroll if the rules dictated by HMRC classify that worker as employed, rather than self-employed.

Exemptions apply as below:

  • Turnover of less than £10.2 million per annum.
  • Balance sheet value of under £5.1 million.
  • Fewer than 50 employees.

Remember that these criteria apply to the end client, not the contractor or the agency, so these tests to establish eligibility apply to the care home or social care employer to whom the worker is dispatched.

The roles that are subject to IR35 assessments include registered nurses, and other professional roles – potentially inclusive of social workers and supply teachers depending on how the legislation is rolled out.

Ultimately, IR35 means that, without taking any action, care homes will need to find an additional 30% budget for agency nurses by next April, unless their agency is already billing this surplus cost.

What can Care Home Managers do Ahead of IR35 to Protect Their Staffing Budgets?

The first action is to ensure that you are only employing agency nurses, and any other healthcare or social care professionals, through a transparent and compliant staffing agency.

While umbrella companies and agencies are familiar throughout healthcare, it is imperative that you only hire through reputable agencies and perform routine audits, to avoid inadvertently breaching the new rules and potentially being subject to steep penalties.

OUTT believes that the correct interpretation of IR35 is that this applies to all registered nurses working within care homes – regardless of the size of that care home, or ownership group.

Your next step is to assess what payroll cost hikes you are facing and to determine whether reliance on your existing agency employment structure is likely to be cost-effective in the future.

And – if not? We have a solution.

What if:

  • You could hire registered nurses; view all of their skills, experience and accreditations, through a registered agency that charges a fixed 10% fee?
  • There was a fully transparent fee structure, so you’d always be aware of the cost of hiring temporary candidates, without any nasty surprises?
  • Your agency of choice offered a completely digital interface, enabling you to vet applicants, make job offers, manage timesheet approvals, and request documentation, all from a few clicks of the mouse?
  • You could work direct with the candidates of your choice, eliminating hearsay and third party conversations.

OUTT is proud to be disrupting the framework of hiring contingent staff in the social care and healthcare sectors.

It has long been time for a change, and we leverage digital technology, and contemporary working practises to make the lives of care home managers easier, and their budgets simpler to control.

As a service designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the urgent need for social care managers to have faster, more efficient access to qualified shift workers, OUTT is changing how agency staff work, for the better.

How do we work around the IR35 regulations? It’s  straightforward:

  1. Staff are fully PAYE employed, by us, with the same access to benefits, entitlements and pay as you would expect in any permanent role.
  2. OUTT deals with the payroll, record keeping and timesheet approvals through our digital platform to save you the time, hassle and cost of doing so.
  3. We are partially funded by InnovateUK, and a registered and compliant employer thoroughly versed with the IR35 legislation, and our obligations.
  4. OUTT charges agency fees with absolute transparency and a fixed 10% cost.

How Much Could I Save on My Care Home Agency Fees for Temporary Workers?

When it comes to the crunch, IR35 is about two things – holding employers liable for providing full entitlements to their workers and collecting PAYE taxes directly from the source.

Even without the impact of IR35 for care homes, the sector is often dealing with budget pressures and staff shortages, and April 2021 looks set to cause enormous challenges for many managers.

By switching to OUTT, you have the assurance that your temporary staff are all employed, with full PAYE benefits, relieving you of any further obligation aside from concentrating on running your team.

Our new Temporary Agency Savings Calculator provides a fast, efficient way to see how much you could reduce your staffing budget by.

As an indicative example:

  • You employ a Registered Nurse through an agency at £20 per hour pay rate. Inclusive of your agency fees, taxes and additions, your actual hourly cost is £30.72 – equating to £4.85 per hour agency fees, or 21.64% of the staffing cost.
  • By switching to OUTT, you pay a fixed 10% agency rate – no quibble, no question. That makes an hourly saving of 11.64% – meaning you save a total of £2.61 for every hour you hire a temporary nurse through OUTT.
  • Over a year, if you hire registered agency nurses for 40 hours per week, for 52 weeks of the year, your budget will reduce by a whopping £5,425.89 – without changing anything, but your staffing agency.

You can try out our calculator tool to see for yourself how much you could save.

Sounds too good to be true?

It isn’t.

All we are doing at OUTT is taking best practise and tried and tested modern working methods, and applying them to the healthcare industry to demonstrate what responsible, forward-thinking and digitally enhanced agency employment should look like!

Take action today to ensure your temporary nursing requirements are booked and budgeted for, well in advance of IR35.

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Social Care Employer Interview Techniques – Post-COVID

Social Care Employer Interview Techniques – Post-COVID

Interviews are a crucial part of recruitment and help social care workforce managers learn so much more about potential candidates than a CV can possibly tell them.

Face-to-face discussions allow employers to see how applicants respond to pressure, how quickly they can think on their feet, and help establish a rapport to see how well a person might fit into their team.

However, in the time of a global pandemic, personal interactions are to be avoided, particularly in the healthcare sector. Many social care recruiters are switching their interviews to digital media, which allows hiring to continue, but presents other new challenges.

We explore the best options for conducting remote interviews, and how good practise can ensure recruitment is successful.

How COVID Has Changed Healthcare Workplace Interviews

Every care home or social care setting will need new staff from time to time. Whether that is filling full-time roles, covering periods of leave, or using contingent/agency staff to fill gaps in the staffing rota.

Video calls are nothing new, but are becoming commonplace, and have changed from being the exception to the general rule.

Many social care managers are now:

  • Inviting candidates to remote interviews via platforms such as Zoom or Skype.
  • Conducting fewer interview stages to reduce the number of steps in the recruitment process.
  • Interviewing applicants individually, rather than as part of a panel of hirers.

A remote call simply isn’t the same as meeting somebody face-to-face. That said, by preparing well, we can help applicants find the experience less stressful, and employers gain the essential information they need to make a decision.

The main challenges of remote interviewing include:

  • Having fewer interview participants, and thus not having as much of balanced opinion, or not having colleagues to discuss each applicant with.
  • Not having that personal interaction with a potential employee to be able to get to know them a little better.
  • Candidates lack the benefit of being able to visit a potential workplace to get a feel for the working environment.
  • Patchy connections and time delays can make the conversation stilted and uncomfortable.

Alternative Social Care Recruitment Techniques

As we learn new ways to communicate and carry out our daily roles, so too has recruitment needed to pivot.

One of the essential factors in smooth recruitment techniques is to consider the best way to reach suitable quality applicants, how to communicate the skill requirements, salary on offer and job requirements.

The aims of hiring a new member of staff are unchanged – you want to:

  • Attract the best possible social care talent.
  • Learn more about each applicant.
  • Deliver a pleasant experience for each candidate.
  • Find staff who fit your requirements and have the right healthcare training.
  • Explain the detail of the social care jobs on offer, and make it appealing to the right skill level.

All of these requirements can be met through digital interviews, provided some thought and planning go into how best to conduct them.

The alternatives to traditional face-to-face interviews include options such as:

  • Video interviews via Zoom, Skype, Teams, Google Meet etc.
  • Telephone interviews (being mindful that not every applicant may have access to a secure internet connection).
  • Streaming real-time workplace virtual tours.
  • Preparing candidate application packs with more information about the role and work environment that typically would have been shared during the interview.
  • Informal colleague chats – sometimes through social media or What’s App – to help applicants ask questions and meet the team.

With each of these options, the aim is to replicate the traditional interview and hiring process, whilst adhering to guidelines around reducing direct contact.

Tips For Digital Interviews For Social Care Jobs

Given that digital interviews are likely to be as new to an applicant as they are to an employer, this change is a learning curve for us all.

Here are our top tips for streamlined, well organised and smooth interview processes:

  1. Always arrange a mutually convenient time, and conduct interviews in a quiet place without interruptions.
  2. Have a list of questions ready in advance – this also allows you to consult colleagues and compile a comprehensive list of topics to discuss.
  3. Ensure the same questions are asked of every candidate, regardless of how the interview is conducted.
  4. Incorporate extra time into the recruitment schedule to allow for colleague discussions, follow-up interviews if necessary and to ensure interviews can be scheduled at the right time for all participants.

Let’s look at some of the different interview options, and best practise recommendations for each medium.

Telephone Interviews

  • Tell the applicant what number you will be calling from in advance – it is best to use a work phone number for a secure and private connection.
  • Confirm the time of the call, so that they will know to pick up. This is especially important if you use an undisclosed line, which could be mistaken for a spam call.
  • Decide how many people will be on the call, and ensure everybody has access to any conference call links you might be using.
  • Test the line before the call – nothing makes an interview more stressful than a crackling connection, a volume that is too quiet or too loud, or time lags after speaking.
  • It is best to use a landline rather than a mobile; this avoids potential connection issues or a breaking signal, and usually prevents those annoying time delays where participants can end up talking over each other.

Virtual Video Interviews

  • Whichever software or app you are using, make sure every participant has access to the programme, has it installed in advance, and has logged in or created an account ready for the interview to begin.
  • Choose the most convenient option – the most popular include Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams, although there are many others.
  • If interviewing with multiple panel members, make sure you have agreed who will lead.
  • Ask all participants to mute their connection when not speaking. This prevents background noise from disrupting the flow of conversation.
  • Test the connection in advance, and always use a stable broadband connection – remote interviews via mobile are possible but can be less reliable.
  • Make sure the connection is secure for privacy and security.
  • Always have an alternative available – such as a telephone interview – as some candidates might not have access to a computer or laptop, or may not have a reliable Internet connection.

Care Home Virtual Tours

  • Offer virtual tours if possible; real-time, live streams are ideal, but pre-recorded videos are an alternative where this is not possible.
  • Ensure all staff, visitors, patients, and residents are aware of the video being recorded or streamed and do not feature anybody who does not wish to be shown.
  • Check that confidential information is not shared via a video stream; think about notice boards, paperwork, files, patient name cards on doors etc.
  • Invite attendees to ask questions, and be involved in the tour process as they would in an in-person visit.
  • Let everybody know what programme you will be using – What’s App is a popular choice. If applicants do not have access to the software or app you are using, try to offer a pre-recorded video available by other means so that all candidates receive the same information.
  • Be mindful of security, and ensure you are using a secure connection and that your virtual tour is accessible only to invited attendees.

Interpersonal Connections in a Distanced World

When it comes to social care jobs, interviews are vital to be able to get to know each applicant. Personal qualities and having a compatible team are just as important as recruiting social care staff with the right skills and training, and many of these things can’t be communicated clearly through a written document.  It is still possible to conduct engaging interviews, and deliver a positive applicant experience through virtual recruitment – and with the right planning and resources, workforces can continue to thrive.

OUTT Social Care App provides social care employers with the platform to easily fill last minute shifts, care rotas and even permanent vacancies direct with the candidate. Register with us now!

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Changes in Right to Work Checks for Social Care Employers

Changes in Right to Work Checks for Social Care Employers

Social care employers are no strangers to completing thorough checks on new employees; whether permanent, part-time staff or agency/contingent workers.

The sector demands comprehensive verification processes to ensure that staff caring for vulnerable people have been thoroughly vetted.

However, amid the Coronavirus pandemic, along with sweeping financial support schemes and programmes to avoid large-scale economic disaster, the government has announced a temporary easing of right to work checks, to help social care employers streamline the recruitment process.

What Are Right to Work Checks?

Right to work checks determine that an applicant is legally permitted to carry out a job or work placement. These must take place in advance of employment beginning, and typically constitute verifying a person’s ID by analysing an official form of identification.

Before Covid-19, this process would usually involve:

  • Asking the candidate to attend a meeting in person, bringing their ID document(s) with them.
  • Having this ID matched to the applicant, and checked by an appointed person.
  • Applying for a DBS check at the same time, to verify that the person does not have any undisclosed criminal record.
  • Verifying any visa documentation required for overseas workers.

The burden of responsibility falls on social care employers; they have a legal obligation to ensure that employees are legally permitted to work in the UK.

Civil penalties can be issued against employers if they have knowingly employed an illegal worker, regardless of which member of staff carried out the check. Some employers used a third party checking service, partially to delegate the workload and partially to mitigate the responsibility.

Right to Work Checks for Applicants Without Documentation

In some scenarios, it may be that individuals are unable to prove this right.

The number of instances where this is a likelihood has increased as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic; where individuals are unable to travel, have had applications suspended, or immigration proceedings postponed.

The Home Office offers an Employer Checking Service, whereby they will verify an applicant’s immigration status if:

  • The person cannot provide documents – usually because they are pending results of an appeal or Home Office application.
  • The applicant has an Application Registration Card.
  • The candidate has a Certificate of Application issued less than six months ago.
  • The applicant is a Commonwealth citizen and moved to the UK before 1988.

It is important to note that while employers must comply with carrying out right to work checks, they must also not discriminate against any employee or potential employee.

This means giving thought to equal opportunities and offering the same process for verifying and vetting employees regardless of other circumstances.

The Importance of Right to Work Checks in the Health and Social Care Sector

While employing legitimate staff is a priority in all industries, for jobs in care, this is even more crucial.

Every social care applicant must be verified to ensure:

  • That they are legally allowed to work.
  • That they are who they say they are.
  • Safeguarding checks have been completed for the protection of patients.
  • Any certifications or qualifications the applicant purports to have are verified.

Health and social care sectors are responsible for looking after a wide range of people, most of whom are vulnerable. It is therefore vital that any social care worker, carrying out any kind of role, has been verified before they begin work.

Depending on the role and level of check required, examples of the documents accepted as part of a right to work check for jobs in care include:

  • Passport
  • Biometric Residence Permit
  • Residence card
  • Immigration Status Document
  • Positive Verification Notice (from the Home Office)

Documents are categorised into different groups, and the type of check depends on the role in question. For example, an ongoing permanent position requires one right to work check before the job begins, and is not then required again.

Temporary workers may need to undergo a right to work check before employment, and again once permissions granted expire.

Alternatively, this check may need to be carried out every six months.

What Has Happened to Right to Work Checks as a Result of Covid-19?

Some of the most significant changes implemented are around social distancing, and a drive to reduce direct contact.

This means that many social care interviews are conducted remotely, and distance working practises are being implemented in roles where this is possible.

The government has announced several changes to try and streamline the right to work checks required from social care employers to help them meet the guidelines, without stalling recruitment:

  1. Checks may now be conducted via video call rather than in person.
  2. Documents are acceptable via scanned copies or photos, rather than the original being mandatory.
  3. The Employer Checking Service remains available when a candidate cannot provide acceptable documents.

Other requirements remain unchanged, including the lists of accepted documents, and the responsibility to carry out right to work checks for all jobs in social care.

Social care employers have also been reminded of the need to ensure that equal opportunities are offered to all applicants, and nobody is discriminated against because of their inability to provide right to work documentation.

The process for checks during the pandemic is:

  • Request a scanned copy or a photo of the document(s) via email or app.
  • Schedule a video call where the applicant must show the original document(s).
  • Verify the original document(s) on the video call match the scanned copies or photos.
  • Record the check made, and the date, noting that it was carried out under temporary Covid-19 rules.
  • Use the online checking service to verify Biometric Residence documents during the video call, requesting permission from the candidate to view their details.

This process is designed to ensure that remote communications replace in-person right to work checks, and as yet there is no timeline by which these new regulations will become redundant.

At OUTT we maintain the highest level of compliance especially with right to work. Our automated registration process utilises the latest technologies to verify official ID documentation, right to work status, candidate identification using biometric software and proof of address. This is just one of the reasons employers are favouring OUTT over traditional agencies.

What Will Happen to Checks Against Jobs in Care Post-Pandemic?

Right to work checks will always be mandatory, but currently, we cannot know when routine procedures will resume.

The government advises that social care employers will be notified when Covid-19 measures cease. They may then need to carry out follow-up verifications retrospectively for all employees who started work while these reduced measures were in place, or for those who needed a follow-up right to work check during the pandemic.

Although we do not yet know when the measures will end, employers have been notified that they will have an eight-week deadline to carry out these retrospective checks.

If, during a retrospective check, an employee is found not to have permission to be in the UK, or to be working, then their employment must end immediately.

OUTT Social Care App provides social care employers with the platform to easily fill last minute shifts, care rotas and even permanent vacancies direct with the candidate. Register with us now!

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Care Home Safety – Difference in Facemask Grades

Care Home Safety – Difference in Facemask Grades

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has always been a vital resource in care homes.  Social care workers are accustomed to safety equipment such as masks, gowns and gloves. The performance and quality of facemasks however, has become increasingly important and is likely to remain so in the post-pandemic years to come.

Different facemask grades present significantly variable levels of protection from respiratory diseases and airborne viruses. Here we explore the contrasting PPE grades, and which models are most appropriate in care home settings.

The Importance of Safety in Care Homes

Of course, PPE isn’t only for the protection of care workers but is equally vital for vulnerable and immunocompromised residents. Care workers may be required to undergo more thorough decontamination and take additional preventative measures to avoid transporting viral particles into a care facility. Covid-19 is most commonly transmitted through close contact, or by contact with contaminated objects, and so hygiene is essential to avoid transmitting the virus.

Those at higher risk from Coronavirus fall into two categories:

  1. High risk – those who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable.
  2. Moderate risk – those who are considered clinically vulnerable.

Many social care settings will look after a majority of patients who fall into one of these categories. This includes people who have a serious heart condition, take medications such as steroids, are aged 70 or over, or have diabetes, as a few examples. Outside of care homes, vulnerable people are advised to ‘shield’ – i.e. to avoid contact with anybody outside of their home. Since this is impossible for care home residents, the social care sector has a responsibility to do everything possible to avoid exposing such vulnerable people to a potentially deadly virus.

Sanitation and safety are fundamental working practices for all care homes, but it has never been so crucial to the wellbeing and protection of residents.

Care Home Safety in the Fight Against Covid-19

The most common way for Covid-19 to transit from person to person is through close personal contact. For care workers, it is impossible to avoid direct contact, as indeed this is an essential requirement of providing personal care and support to elderly or less capable residents.

Therefore, the use of PPE continues to be highlighted as a critical resource in tackling the spread.

Along with measures such as regular, thorough handwashing, and being vigilant in the lookout for symptoms, Public Health England recommends:

  • Single-use disposable gloves
  • Wearing disposable plastic aprons
  • Provision of fluid repellant surgical masks
  • Using eye protection where there is a risk of contamination through the eyes

The most appropriate type of PPE depends on the task at hand. For example, when performing meal rounds, if no direct contact is required and you will remain at a two-metre distance, then disposable gloves and aprons may not be necessary. Likewise, in communal areas such as dining rooms and lounges, when distance can be maintained, full PPE might not be needed. However, in any care home setting, a surgical facemask is recommended.

Facemasks are important since anybody could be carrying Covid-19, and yet be displaying no symptoms. It is possible to transmit the virus to a vulnerable person without having had any awareness of being infected. Wearing a facemask ensures that you limit the potential of passing on the virus. This could happen if you were to touch your mouth or nose, and then a door handle – any person using that door handle within a certain time may pick up the viral particles.

The Role of PPE in Care Home Safety  

PPE performs a variety of duties. It protects care workers from illnesses or infections carried by their patients, protects residents from particles brought in from outside of the care home setting, and makes the work environment safe.

This type of protection is essential to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 but is also necessary for securing the welfare of social care workers. The core reasons we use PPE in professional settings are to:

  • Reduce worker exposure to hazards
  • Protect against health and safety risks
  • Prevent staff illnesses, shortages and emergencies
  • Improve the health of employees
  • Promote a safe, secure, work environment

Given the significance of facemasks during the pandemic, it is crucial to understand the difference between coverings to ensure you have the most appropriate PPE for your social care placement.

There are three main types of mask, all of which have varying protective properties:

  • Surgical Masks: protect your mouth and nose from respiratory particles. This protects both care workers and residents by minimising the risk of transmitting infection from one person to the other.
  • Fluid Repellent Surgical Masks (FRSM): protect you and your patients from respiratory droplets, usually passed through a cough or sneeze, by providing a barrier against your mouth and nose.
  • Face Coverings: the general public must wear a face-covering – although this does not have to be a surgical-grade mask as required for social care workers. Face coverings can be made of cloth for reuse and can help reduce transmission levels when widely used throughout public settings.

If you are in any doubt as to the right facemask required for your role, it is essential to seek support from your manager or a social care professional.

Not All FaceMasks are Created Equal: Different Facemask Grades 

Discussions around the properties of surgical grade facemasks have arisen, primarily due to PPE shortages. Any face covering is better than none, but in a care home setting where most residents are likely to be vulnerable, it is vital to have the right safety precautions in place.

Many facemask models have similar names and use varying international standards – which can make it complex to identify the best option. One of the key factors is to understand the measurement basis, which dictates the numeric element of a facemask model number. This works on the percentage of particles captured; so the higher the number, the more effective the protection.

For example, a facemask that captures 95% of particles has the designation ’95’, such as in the commonly used models KN95 and N95. There are other surgical standards to bear in mind, such as:

  • Filtration efficiency
  • Fit tests
  • National safety standards
  • Pressure drops – which impact the ease of breathing for the wearer

In the UK, surgical-grade masks that are suitable for care worker and patient protection are considered a Class I Medical Device. That means that they must conform with the design and safety standards laid out by the Medical Device Regulations (MDD/MDR) and be CE marked.

European surgical grade masks must conform with European Standard EN 14683, which classifies masks into three primary categories:

  • Type I – bacteria filtering of 95% or above
  • Type II – bacteria filtering of 98% or above
  • Type IIR – bacteria filtering of 98% or above, and splash-resistant

Sterile surgical masks must also carry a CE certificate for the sterility aspects of the product. These standards are essential for care worker safety, as they are more robust than the criteria required for general use PPE which is designed to protect the wearer, without necessarily offering the same degree of protection for care home residents.

The Most Common Facemask Grades and What They Mean

Here are the most common types of facemask in use throughout social care:

N95 – N95 facemasks capture at least 95% of airborne particles. They must meet particular standards for pressure drops, airflow rates and leakage rates of under 30 ml per minute (mL/min).

KN95 – a KN95 facemask meets the same standards as an N95 when it comes to 95% or above particle protection. They must also be fit tested on people, and be shown to provide a maximum of 8% leakage (this requirement does not apply to N95 masks).

FFP2 – an FFP is a Filtering Face Piece, and is the European equivalent of the N95 respirator masks used through US healthcare. FFP2 covers meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance for protection against Covid-19 transmission and must meet minimum protection based on concentration levels.

Disposable Facemasks – disposable facemasks are appropriate for single use in non-high-risk settings. However, in care homes, this is not recommended unless no other PPE is available, or in an emergency, since they will not offer the same protection as surgical-grade facemasks.

For care homes, the recommendations are that:

  • Type I surgical facemasks must be worn at all times, even when not in direct contact.
  • Type II surgical facemasks should be worn whenever within two metres of a resident, even if not touching.
  • Filtering Face Pieces (FFPs) or N95 respirators should be worn when aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) are carried out. This is less usual in a care home but could be required where residents require ventilatory support.

Choosing The Right Facemasks for Social Care Workers

The right facemasks for care homes will depend on multiple factors, such as whether there are vulnerable or high-risk residents on-site, the type of care administered, and other health and safety control measures in place. However, we can be sure that permanent wearing of facemasks in social care will continue for the foreseeable future, and ensuring you have the proper protection is vital for your own health, and for that of your patients.

OUTT Social Care App provides social care employers with the platform to easily fill last minute shifts, care rotas and even permanent vacancies direct with the candidate. Register with us now!

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