The impact of a turbulent workforce on insurance and your exposure to claims in a Social Care setting

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What impact could turbulence in your workforce have on insurance and your exposure to claims?

Many businesses have been battening down the hatches and putting a freeze on recruitment during the Covid-19 pandemic. With redundancies across the UK rising to their highest levels since 2009[1], it is no surprise unemployment is becoming a growing issue of concern. Contrary to many other industries, the pandemic has caused a surge in applications for vacancies in the struggling adult social care sector, with a 37% year-on-year increase in individuals applying for jobs in the sector since May 2020[2].  

 

Applicants are recognising the importance the social care sector has played in the pandemic, increasing the attraction of the industry. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) played on this fact in the recently reacted recruitment campaign, along with the longer term opportunity of working in the sector, to target the younger generation.

This is really positive news for Social Care, which has been suffering due to the high numbers of unfilled vacancies for some time. Pre-pandemic, staff vacancy rates in the adult social care sector were at 8.6%. This dropped to 7.0% between March – August 2020[3]. It is worth noting that this decrease could be due to the fall in occupancy rates in care homes, reducing the need for more staff. Even though this is a significant decrease, it is still worryingly higher than the 2.8% average vacancy rate across all industries in the UK[4].

The negative impacts – high turnover and a turbulent workforce

Although this surge in applications is positive, there is a question around how Care operators can retain newly recruited staff.

Staff turnover rates in the Social Care sector are notoriously high and there has been no evidence so far of this changing. However, we can start to think about future trends based on what we know about the demographics of new starters to the sector during this difficult period.

43% of new starters in the sector are under 25 year old, compared to 30% before the start of the pandemic. In recent years, younger staff have been widely considered more difficult to retain. Turnover rates for under 20 year olds is around 46% and is highest in those with less than one years’ experience in the field[5].

This trend could be due to a number of reasons; young people may be using the care sector as a stop gap between education, have travel plans or ambitions for a different career path. When the world starts to re-open and other opportunities become available, perhaps organisations need to be prepared for younger staff leaving to pursue these other opportunities.

As operators know, hiring staff to work within the care sector is an investment. The valuable time and resource that goes into training new recruits has a direct financial impact on an operation. A high staff turnover rate is not only expensive and time consuming, but ultimately it has a detrimental impact on the quality and continuity of care that you can offer service users.

With more applications feeding operators urgency to solve staff shortages during the pandemic, it is essential that focus is also given to retaining these valuable individuals once they have been recruited and trained.

But what does a turbulent workforce mean for my insurance?

At Howden, we are seeing an increase in insurers asking questions around staffing and rates of staff turnover. This interest is mainly due to insurers viewing a high turnover in staff as a heightened exposure to claims in relation to employment disputes.  If you have Legal Expenses Insurance, you will have cover to defend claims of this nature and pay compensation awards (subject to terms and conditions of the policy).  However, in the care sector, the cost of this insurance has risen considerably in recent years so managing this risk could help mitigate future increases to your insurance costs.

Your broker can use evidence of a stable workforce to demonstrate a well trained and experienced operation.  This could help with more than your Legal Expenses insurance, as it is also a sign of a well-managed business, where insurers could defend you adequately in the face of a multitude of liability allegations such as slips and trips, manual handling and medical malpractice incidents.

What can you do to mitigate these exposures? 

To a point, staff turnover is an issue in the industry that cannot be avoided, especially right now with additional pressures on the Sector and staff sickness due to Covid-19 an increasing problem.  It is vital that employment records including references and background checks are retained, so they could be called upon in your defence in the event of a claim.  It’s also essential that evidence of adequate training at the induction stage and ongoing throughout employment are kept.   

If you are forced to utilise a higher than usual ratio of agency staff due to Covid-19 related business interruptions, ensure all documentation in relation to agency appointments are retained and you have a robust training process to fast track temporary staff through your own procedures before they set to work.  

How can you work to reduce your staff turnover?

With more applications being received and positions being filled, now could be the time to carefully consider your staff retention strategy.

  • Review your hiring strategy - one of the easiest ways to reduce turnover is to ensure the best candidates are hired in the first place by making sure that an individual’s values and expectations align with your own. A recent Skills for Care study found that staff recruited for values performed better than those recruited using traditional method[6].
  • Review your induction training – turnover rates are at their highest during the first year of employment, meaning the first few months of work are the most vital for retaining employees. Your induction process can be more than a box ticking exercise, instead it should incorporate formal and informal training programmes, with the overall objective of making sure all new recruits feel happy, settled and confident in their role.
  • Create an environment where people want to stay – cultivating a good work-life balance, and ensuring employees feel valued in their work, is crucial in reducing employee turnover. Would you be open to flexible working patterns for staff? Do you consult employees about change and involve staff in decision making?
  • Schedule regular performance reviews – with an often stressful and time consuming job, scheduling regular reviews can be an opportunity to check in, making sure your employees are coping both with their workload and their mental health. Noticing that an employee is struggling early on, and implementing strategies to help them can ultimately help that employee perform their role better. 
  • Review training and development opportunities - regular review meetings can also be an opportunity to highlight any training or development needs. It has been shown that care workers who received regular training, and felt that their organisation invested in them, were less likely to leave their roles.
  • Offer an employee benefits programme – often care workers have to cope with extremely challenging circumstances. A well thought through, relevant employee benefits programme offering mental health and wellbeing support, training and development programmes and other benefits that promote a good work-life balance could help staff and encourage them to stay within the business.

 

If you would like to discuss any of the topics raised in this article, or find out more about the range of employee benefits programmes we can offer, contact our specialist team today.

 


[2] Skills for Care, The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England. October 2020

[3] Skills for Care, The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England. October 2020

[5] Skills for Care, The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England. October 2020

[6] Skills for Care, The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England. October 2020