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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.

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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!

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.

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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!

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.

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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!