The challenges of the care sector

If you operate in the care sector, you’ll know what a big difference you can make to people’s lives. But you’ll also be aware of the challenges the industry is facing.

An ageing population coupled with a shortage of workers are making it harder for employers to deliver a care service based on dignity and respect. Some of the most common problems are:

  • Employee retention: A 2017 report by Skills for Care estimated that almost 340,000 care workers leave their job each year.
  • Sickness absence: caring for the elderly and infirm can be both physically and mentally draining, so it’s no surprise that many workers in the sector go off sick.
  • Tougher immigration laws: 7% of care workers in the UK are non-British EU nationals, while 9% are from even further afield.

Situations where Peninsula can help

Our clients in the care industry already use our 24/7 helpline to get expert advice on HR, employment law and health & safety. We solve most cases within 24 hours.

Here are some of the issues we’ve helped resolve:

  • What do I have to pay staff who are working sleep-in shifts?

    The law requires you to pay your workers at least the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage. This usually covers night shifts, but may also cover sleep-in shifts, where a worker is present at the workplace but can sleep when they aren’t helping anyone.

    This is a complex area of employment law, but we can help guide you through it to make sure you’re paying all your staff the right amount.

  • Do I always have to check if a candidate has the right to work in the UK, or only when they aren’t British?

    You should check the documents of all potential employees, no matter where they’re from. If you only check the documentation of those who are non-British, you’re likely to face claims of racial discrimination.

    You could also get hit with a heavy fine if you assume someone is eligible to work in the UK, but it turns out they aren’t.

    Immigration law can be tricky to understand. That’s why our experts are available around the clock to help you get your head around it.

  • A member of staff has been accused of falsifying patients’ medication records. How do I handle this?

    Follow your disciplinary procedure. If you don’t have one already, we’ll help you write one.

    We can also help you carry out a full and fair investigation into the allegations. If it turns out the allegations are true, this is probably a case of gross misconduct and you should consider suspending the employee, or moving them to an alternative role.

    Before making a decision, you should take into account whether the employee’s actions were deliberate or accidental.

  • I offered a job to an applicant but I’ve now found out they have a criminal record. What should I do?

    If you offered someone a job on the condition that they had no criminal record, then you can withdraw the offer.

    If you made an unconditional offer, you’ll need to give notice to the employee. This will be the notice period specified in their contract of employment or, if you didn’t specify this, a reasonable period of time.

    If the applicant makes a claim of unfair dismissal, we can provide tribunal representation as well as insurance.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by these problems. But you could solve many of them with Peninsula’s expert help.

We already support 3,400 other businesses in the care industry with their HR, employment law and health & safety needs.

Find out how we helped Hopton Cottage Care Home reduce staff absenteeism and deal with problematic employees.

Real tribunal cases

Overtime—part of holiday pay or not?

The East of England Ambulance Trust needed its drivers to work non-guaranteed overtime whenever their shifts overran due to an emergency. They also offered the drivers voluntary overtime shifts, where they could choose whether they wanted to work.

The Trust didn’t include payment for non-guaranteed overtime and voluntary overtime in the drivers’ holiday pay, so they brought a claim for unlawful deduction of pay.

The tribunal ruled that because of the nature of the job, ambulance drivers couldn’t always leave work at the end of their shifts. Therefore, the non-guaranteed overtime formed part of their normal pay, and the Trust should have included it in their holiday pay.

On the other hand, the tribunal ruled that the Trust didn’t have to include voluntary overtime because it varied significantly from worker to worker.

Sleep-in shifts lead to employment tribunal

A carer for adults with autism worked a nine-hour sleep-in shift and was paid a flat rate of £22.35, plus one hour’s pay per shift. The carer had her own bedroom on the premises, but needed to be alert during the night in case there was an emergency.

When she wasn’t helping the residents, the carer was free to sleep or use her time as she wished, but wasn’t allowed to leave the premises. She claimed the care home wasn’t paying her the National Minimum Wage.

The tribunal found the carer was ‘at work’ for the whole of the sleep-in shift, because she needed to be available at the home even when the residents didn’t need her.

And because the law required the employer to have a carer on the premises at all times, this confirmed their decision that she was working even while asleep. So the care home should pay the employee at least the National Minimum Wage for each hour of the sleep-in shift.

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