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Care Home Workers to be Fully Vaccinated

Care Home Workers to be Fully Vaccinated

Vaccines have appeared as a beacon of hope for millions of people at the highest risk of COVID-19 complications – and nowhere have they been more welcome than in the health and care sectors!

As we write, the latest stats show that:

  • Everybody in priority groups 1-9 has been offered a vaccination.
  • Across England, 91.3% of care home residents have had two doses.
  • 1% of care home workers have had one jab, and 70.2% both.

However, we can’t forget that some people can’t have the vaccine, and others have elected not to, for a wide range of social, cultural, medical or personal reasons.

New government legislation means from October, all staff in any CQC-registered care facility must have a mandatory two doses, although those with medical exemption are not included.

Let’s explore what this means and the impact of compulsory vaccination programmes on the British care sector.

The New Vaccine Rules for Social Care Professionals

While Parliament hasn’t yet approved the legislation, it seems very likely the vaccine rules will become law from October 2021.

In short, they mean that:

  • Staff providing personal or nursing support in a care home must have had two COVID-19 vaccinations (of any kind).
  • All workers employed by a care home or care agency are included, plus volunteers in a care home setting.
  • Healthcare workers who attend care homes and other contractors (such as hairdressers or tradespeople) must also be fully vaccinated.
  • Workers with a medical exemption are omitted and will not be required to have the vaccine if they have a condition that prevents this.

There will be a 16-week grace period, so any care home workers who haven’t yet received both vaccines will have time to book themselves in.

As we all know, elderly and vulnerable patients are at a substantially higher risk of becoming severely ill with the Coronavirus.

The majority of care home residents fall into a priority group, with over 90% now fully vaccinated.

Care professionals have been able to book their vaccines from early on in the rollout, although these new rules make it a legal obligation to do so, applying to around 15% of care staff who haven’t yet received any vaccine dose.

Protecting Care Home Residents Through Staff Vaccinations

The compulsory vaccines will go some way to protecting those patients who are at such significant risk.

But, what happens to valued care home staff that refuse?

As it stands, they may find themselves unable to work or being redeployed away from front-line care to a position that doesn’t involve any patient interaction.

However, the former seems more likely, since the legislation includes all ancillary staff in a care home – including administrative, housekeeping or maintenance roles.

The debate rumbles on since compulsory vaccines are a good thing in terms of patient safeguarding. Still, they may cause significant issues for care homes that already struggle to recruit and retain outstanding staff.

Several organisations have voiced concerns:

  • The British Medical Association says that compulsory vaccine laws are a ‘blunt instrument’, which ‘carries its own risks’.
  • The Chairman of the Independent Care Group, based in Yorkshire, states that they are ‘disappointed’ and foresee the potential for legal disputes.
  • Unison’s General Secretary calls for encouragement, not legislation, calling the announcement the ‘government’s sledgehammer approach’.

Critics advocate for a gentler process, explaining the benefits of vaccination and easing concerns that mean some care home staff feel reluctant to take up the vaccine offered.

Given the public nature of the announcements, we don’t imagine a U-turn ahead, despite some objections to forcing social care staff to be vaccinated, even if against their wishes.

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The Future of Mandatory Vaccinations

As yet, the legislation impacts only care homes, and so there aren’t any specific indications that the government will roll out compulsory vaccine laws elsewhere.

There are, though, some signs that this could be set to change in the future.

The Department of Health and Social Care says that it will launch an extended consultation to evaluate whether vaccine laws will apply to other social care settings and healthcare facilities.

Consultation responses have highlighted the feelings of disparity in care home workers being ‘singled out’, so this extension seems to arise from those concerns.

In the future, there are hints that COVID-19 vaccinations and winter flu jabs will be a condition of employment in a care or healthcare setting.

However, we’ve yet to see any information about how this would be regulated.

For the time being, the Public Health England data on vaccine effectiveness shows that jabs have prevented 14,000 fatalities and 42,000 hospital admissions in older people, based on statistics in England up to 30th May 2021.

Insisting on care home staff vaccinations may mean that the remaining 52,000 care home staff who haven’t been vaccinated and are eligible could further protect vulnerable patients.

 

Vaccination Support for Care Home Workers

Here at OUTT, we acknowledge the compelling power of the vaccination programme to eliminate the highest risks of COVID-19 and help make UK care homes safer places for all.

However, we also recognise that some care home professionals may have concerns about how the mandatory vaccine rules will affect their careers and future employment prospects.

If you would like further information about the vaccines available, there are several resources out there:

  • The World Health Organization advice page includes details about how the vaccines work and the safety analysis criteria for each type of vaccine being offered.
  • You can download a FAQs document from the NHS England site explaining everything from side effects to ingredients.
  • Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has a detailed list of medical conditions that impact your eligibility for vaccination.

For care home workers who are keen to get booked in well in advance of the new rules, you can book online through the NHS Booking page, which confirms that all social care workers are eligible.

Please get in touch with the OUTT team if you would like to chat about current care home vacancies, other roles in the social care sector, or any information contained in this article.

 

Maintain Care Staff Morale in Difficult Times

Maintain Care Staff Morale in Difficult Times

If we’ve learned anything this last year, it’s that collective care staff morale is one of the most powerful components of a successful team.

It can be particularly challenging for managers and employers to maintain great enthusiasm and commitment when the workplace has been a tricky environment.

Social care facilities and healthcare providers have had an astonishingly hard time.

Managing PPE shortages, staff self-isolation periods, increased anxiety, higher staff to patient ratios, and general stress has made it tough to focus on that all-important feeling of camaraderie crucial to staff retention and recruitment.

Add to the mix potential patient bereavements, workers who are struggling in their personal lives with family separations, and the indefinite cancellation of all holidays, and we’ve been managing a melting pot of frustration.

As a market-leading social care recruitment service, the OUTT.com team is here for our valued employers and professional care workers.

Here we share some guidance and well-established ways to engage with your teams and ensure everybody has a great support network, boosting morale and productivity across the board.

The Value of Workplace Morale in Care Settings

Perhaps more than most, care staff morale is crucial to delivering outstanding service.

The one-to-one connections with patients or residents and interpersonal elements of each role are intrinsically tied to workforce positivity.

Some of the reasons that morale is so crucial:

  • Employees that feel valued will be more committed to their roles.
  • Rewarded staff are less likely to leave and show higher productivity levels.
  • Better workforce engagement means fewer absences.
  • Good leadership ensures teams are better equipped to deal with challenges.
  • Staff that are invited to contribute have a vested interest in excellent organisational performance.

In a sector with alarming skill shortages, workforce managers must consider their staff morale.

Retaining outstanding quality care staff and recruiting fresh talent relies on having a vibrant, happy, engaged workforce that creates that element of teamwork.

One of the biggest takeaways is that workplace satisfaction isn’t a one-person responsibility. Staff who are having extreme difficulties aren’t going to want to engage in team-building activities, and so a holistic approach is vital.

That means reflecting on staff mental wellbeing, offering support services, and ensuring teams take breaks and holidays before they reach burn out.

Next, we’ll consider the role of employers in creating this platform for collaborative engagement.

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Improving Morale as a Social Care Employer

Talking about ‘happy staff, happy workplace’ isn’t always as simple to put into action. Every employee will have different needs, pressure points and personal considerations.

These impact their willingness to engage and how they interact with managers.

Best practice dictates that it is vital for employers to allow staff to contribute to their working environment or policies. Collaboration is critical, and workers invited to share opinions, submit ideas, or discuss feedback will be empowered to be positive team members.

Here are the ‘commandments’ of excellent leadership that all contribute to excellent staff morale:

  1. Connecting with employees. Learn what’s challenging, how they’d like things to change and ways you can work together to make that happen.
  2. Offer opportunities for advancement. Whether that’s training, new work experience, or support with obtaining new skills, if staff can see their work going somewhere in the future, they know that they are valued and supported to progress.
  3. Transparent communications. Every workplace will have difficult times, and trying to gloss over any organisational challenges creates an attitude of distrust and suspicion. Instead, be honest, and share your vision, so your experienced staff can help find a way through the most formidable obstacles.
  4. Set goals, and provide the resources required to meet them. We all work best when we’ve got a target, so if you can create a group or individual aspiration, or metrics you’d like to meet, everyone can pull together in unison.
  5. Reward great staff. If your team has gone above and beyond, pulled their weight under extreme pressure, or managed extensive overtime with finesse, you must recognise that professionalism. If you’re in a position to award bonuses, then great! But rewards don’t have to be financial – it could be an extra holiday day, a token of appreciation, or another benefit that you know your staff would appreciate.
  6. Allow flexibility. Staff who control their working hours, make decisions, and don’t feel pulled from pillar to post will always perform better than those trying to do their best work under a dictatorial management system.
  7. Recognise excellence, and give it credibility. If you are proud of your staff, tell them! Spotlight great work, highlight best practice and make sure your workers can take pride in the outstanding standards they work so hard to uphold.
  8. Support your staff – in and outside of work. Mental health has taken a knock this year, and social care staff right at the front line have been significantly exposed. Ensure your teams take regular breaks, make sure there are snacks and hot drinks in the staff room, encourage holiday entitlements to be fully utilised, and raise a red flag if you can see signs of stress that need a gentle, supportive intervention.

Finally, the best way to improve staff morale is to share your confidence.

In difficult situations, it can feel that the weight of the world is descending.

Still, the reality is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and practical steps you can take as a workforce to overcome the obstacles ahead.

Be confident, consistent, share your thoughts, and see your team as a group of professionals who have years of knowledge to contribute to shaping the future of your social care organisation.

 

What is the Best Morale Boosting Reward?

We’ve touched on rewarding outstanding staff and how there are ranges of ways to showcase your gratitude for workers who provide terrific care, even under the most difficult of circumstances.

Rewards can be a touchy subject, and OUTT.com recognises that many employers don’t have an unlimited budget to assign bonuses or extra holiday days.

As an OUTT.com employee, you can get access to a range of employee benefits. It’s an innovative way for us to provide rewards and show our appreciation for staff.

Social care employees accumulate points each time they are paid. Care workers can use points to pay for discounted healthcare insurance, gym memberships, restaurant meals, and a vast range of other benefits such as complimentary mortgage consultations.

Many social care managers deal with low staff morale and look for tangible actions to improve their dialogue with contracted staff.  We’d recommend assessing the payroll benefits that can make a profound difference to teams who need a boost to restore their passion for care.

If you’d like more information about improving social care worker morale through more flexible employment strategies, please contact the team at OUTT.com!