Government Guidelines for Social Care Workers this Winter

Government Guidelines for Social Care Workers this Winter

While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt across the nation, the effect on our care sector has been profound. Social care workers may be first in line for vaccinations as front line key workers, but there is still a vital need to protect employees and contingent workers, and halt the virus’s spread.

Workforce managers in care homes and social care organisations have a challenge in the year ahead with the IR35 reforms, and resultant changes to managing agency staff. Still, there is no doubt that having skilled professionals on hand to cover for specialist needs, holiday cover, and urgent shifts will always be in high demand!

The government has created a policy paper called the ‘COVID-19 Winter Plan 2020 to 2021’. This document looks at staff planning, safety guidelines and best practise to keep social care workers and the people they care for, safe.

Let’s run through the key information you need to know to be prepared for these recommendations, which are likely to become hard and fast rules!

Managing Care Home Agency Staff According to New UK Guidance

So, the primary takeaway is that employers should try to avoid moving staff between different care home facilities as far as they can.

Vulnerable residents are far more susceptible to serious illness as a result of the virus. This guideline is intended to limit how staff move between different social care settings, to have consistency within the workforce. Therefore, if an outbreak does occur, it will be more limited to within a smaller number of settings, rather than being exposed to multiple organisations.

As a social care manager, reliant on agency staff to plug those all-important workforce gaps, this presents a bit of a puzzle!

  • IR35 nurses may fall into the new off-payroll working classification. Social care employers will likely be reluctant to commit to fixed, regular hours for the same agency nurses for fear of inadvertently breaching the new employment rules.
  • Agency staffing needs are often urgent and with very little notice, for example, if a team member becomes ill, and a shift needs covering immediately.
  • Requirements vary – if a resident requires a specific treatment or level of care, a contingency professional might be a far more affordable option than employing regular staff with a particular skill set.

The only way to comply with the new winter working guidelines and balance your staffing needs against your budgets is to plan as effectively as possible.


Help us understand reality?

Balancing a Care Home Staffing Strategy with Pandemic Safety in Mind

While the recommendations are to secure agency workers exclusively for your care home, OUTT recognises that this guidance conflicts the IR35 rules. It is essential to work with a fully IR35 compliant agency who offers full PAYE employment benefits to every registered social care professional!

The advice is to:

  • Work on forecasting to predict required agency staff, in which roles, for how many shifts, and for how long.
  • Look ahead for at least a few months. The guidelines currently cover ‘winter’ very broadly, but as we can’t know when the pandemic restrictions will be safe to lift, it’s best to build in a contingency.
  • Pre-book agency staff as required, and try to coordinate teams so that the same care home professionals work together on the same shifts.

Appointing agency staff for fixed shift patterns, permanent work, or a long-term shift rota could cause issues if that worker falls under the IR35 rules. That might mean you are legally obliged to take them onto your PAYE payroll, even if they don’t wish to, with a cost increase of up to 30%.

OUTT is on hand to offer a workable solution to help you meet the IR35 rules, and the winter working safety guidelines, without compromising your staffing strategy or your budget – get in touch for more information about how this works.

We offer employers a rating system, whereby you can report back about agency staff performance, and candidates can build up a portfolio of testimonials, skills and qualifications. If you need to pre-book skilled care home staff for the coming months and need confidence that you’re able to rely on your agency workers to deliver to the highest standards, sign up as an OUTT employer to get started!

How to Guard Against COVID-19 Infections in Care Home Settings

With the best planning in the world, we all know that it is impossible to be 100% certain about how staffing requirements will look in a few weeks!

There could be changes to pandemic safety guidelines, members of the team may need to self-isolate or take time off with illness, or demands for staff to patient ratios might change. That in mind, the critical controls to prevent the spread of Coronavirus remain of significant importance:

  • Staff to patient ratios are imperative. Care levels demand a requisite number of trained professionals and HCAs, and therefore agency staff are still permitted on an ad hoc basis as required.
  • Asking agency workers to provide a COVID-19 test before beginning a shift is a control measure in addition to seven-day testing cycles for all care staff.
  • Workers should change into their uniform on arrival, and wash that uniform, including any reusable protection items after every shift, on a hot wash.
  • Agencies should not book shifts for the same worker in two locations on the same day, to ensure that there is less risk of a care worker bringing the virus from one setting into another.
  • If an agency care home employee has been working at a home where there has been a virus outbreak, they should leave it at least 14 days before accepting a shift at another facility to ensure they are not a carrier.

With vaccination programmes rolling out, many frontline care staff may have had their first injection. However, since we cannot yet know how that will impact our ability to carry or spread the virus, having a vaccination does not eliminate the need for ongoing safety controls.

The government guidelines talk about exclusive contracts and recommend increasing employment levels to ensure you have adequate shift cover. Still, we acknowledge that this depends very much on staffing budgets, occupancy levels and pressure on your existing workforce. Usual measures such as medical-grade PPE, restrictions on visitors and movements, routine testing and enhanced hygiene and cleaning procedures remain essential.

If you need any advice about structuring agency care home staff around these new winter working guidelines, please contact the OUTT social care recruitment team. We offer cost-effective fixed agency rates, full IR35 compliance, and a network of highly skilled, and employer rated social care professionals with our support with compliance at every step of the way.


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.


Help us understand reality?

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.