WIHSC study demonstrates differences in pay and conditions for social care workers

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The Welsh Government has today published research which was undertaken by the Welsh Institute of Health and Social Care (WIHSC) into the differences in social care workforce terms and conditions of employment.

WIHSC, which is based at the University of South Wales (USW), was commissioned by the Welsh Government to  complete the research entitled  ‘Review of evidence of variation in terms andconditions for social care employment contracts in Wales.’ 

Carried out before the Covid-19 pandemic, the review looked at whether any disparities in pay and conditions across the social care workforce in Wales exist, and assesses the extent to which this may have influenced the recruitment and retention of social care workers.

Focusing primarily on the differences in terms and conditions for those frontline care and support staff working for either local authorities (LA) or the independent sector, the review also included healthcare support workers undertaking similar roles in the NHS and a small sample of third sector workers.

The key findings of the report show that there is some evidence of variation in pay and conditions within and between each of the social care sectors and between them and the NHS.

The median basic minimum hourly rate paid to social care workers employed within LAs in Wales is in excess of the real living wage and for social care workers employed in the independent sector, the rate approximates to the national living wage.

The median basic hourly pay rate for NHS support workers is approximately a midpoint between the rates of these other sectors. However, different enhancements to basic pay affect the actual remuneration staff receive.

There is little evidence of variation regarding the proportion of care workers employed on non-guaranteed working-hour/zero-hour contracts among employers across the sectors. This research also suggests there are some advantages to the use of this type of contract.

There is evidence of variation of enhancements to basic pay among and within the different social care sectors and basic pay is enhanced by more factors in the NHS and LAs. 

The social care workforce is affected by high turnover and vacancy rates.

Factors that were found to affect recruitment and retention in the social care sector included pay, the perceived low status of social care as a valued career option, competing jobs from other sectors (e.g. retail), and working hours and shift patterns.

Findings highlight that, while pay and conditions were consistent factors influencing recruitment and retention in the social care workforce, other important factors include: 

  • The values and motivations of staff.
  • The importance of being a ‘good employer’ – staff feeling valued, appreciated, supported and included.
  • Job satisfaction including the relationships social care staff have with those they care for, knowing they are making a difference and having a positive impact.
  • Staff feeling part of a team and having open communication with supervisors and managers.

WIHSC worked in partnership with Data Cymru to develop and manage a Wales-wide online employer survey.

Methods also included a literature review, and interviews and focus groups with the workforce and managers/care providers.

The research was supported by a number of key stakeholders who acted as a reference group for the project. Stakeholders  included the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), Care Forum Wales, Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA),  Social Care Wales, ADSS Cymru, UNISON Cymru, Health Education and Improvement Wales, Welsh NHS Confederation, Senior LA HR Management, Senior NHS Workforce and Organisational Development Management; and WIHSC’s standing Expert Reference Group (ERG).