UK carer shortage problem. Is this the answer?

The care sector is experiencing a carer shortage caused by three main factors; Brexit, care budgets and an ageing population. The sector is struggling to deal with the carer shortage, which has played a part in the increased rate of care home closures. Care roles are generally classed as unskilled which usually results in low pay. The sector also has a high staff turnover rate of 27.8%2, compared to the industry average of around 15.5%1. This raises two questions:

  • How do you retain care staff?
  • What attracts candidates into low paid care roles in the first place?

How to attract care workers

Pay is only one way of attracting employees to your company. Make sure that your roles have a good variety of other benefits. These could be the deciding factor for a candidate applying for a role, especially when the pay is low. Some of things you should consider are:


Generous paid leave could entice carers. This gives them more time to relax and spend time doing things that they enjoy outside of work. Giving employees more holiday can increase productivity and the happiness of your workforce.

Flexible working hours

Carer roles usually require your employees to work flexible hours due to the type of work that’s involved when looking after people. Flexibility can be repaid by you as an employer, which is especially important for those with young families. Flexible working options can reduce stress levels and help your employees with their work-life balance.

Training and development

Training and development is central to carers being able to offer the best level of service to those who need it. It provides them with a boost of confidence for their future aspirations and empowers them to expand their skills and knowledge. Giving clear opportunities for educations shows that a company is invested in its employees and takes their progression seriously.

Clear opportunities for your employees to progress shouldn’t be overlooked. It can be a deciding factor for someone looking to work for you, and it gives your employees aspirations for their future. 

Employee wellbeing

This doesn’t have to be particularly difficult. Private medical insurance options, access to health screening and free health risk assessments can all play a role in attracting employees. Carers are often exposed to infections and illness on a daily basis. They also have a responsibility to keep those around them healthy. It should come as no surprise then that maintaining a workforce that is mentally and physically sound is of utmost importance in the care sector.

Other ways to help with employee wellbeing have been covered in our article: 10 ways to improve your employees’ wellness.

The results? Increased productivity and less sickness.

Employee benefits

Good employee benefit options such as an employee assistance plan (EAP) and workplace financial education can be beneficial in supporting employees, leading to a healthier workforce and less absences. An EAP is an employee benefit that offers confidential advice and counselling on various subjects such as personal debt. This is a win-win for both sides.

Once you’ve attracted employees, it’s equally important to try and keep them. This will reduce recruitment costs and retain valuable and experienced employees.

How to retain your care workers

Once you’ve attracted employees it’s equally important to try and keep them. You should also take a look at your employer engagement levels and make sure you’re reaching your workforce in a way that works for them.

Regularly reviewing the employee benefits that you offer to make sure they meet the needs of your workforce is well worth doing, as new options become available and employee preferences can change. This may apply to both your permanent employees and those on zero-hours contracts.

A considerate review of employee benefits and regular communications about what’s on offer can benefit you and your employees. Meaning they’re likely to stay with you for longer.

An alternative view

It has been argued by some industry leaders, that making care a more skilled job that pays more, will save your businesses money in the long run. Increasing staff retention rates in a sector that has significantly high staff turnover, and requiring less management and supervision to do the role, has definite cost saving benefits3. But, this is something that would need a reform across the sector and would require an industry wide approach, with the opinions of all stakeholders considered.


  1. http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/turnover-rate-reaches-new-high
  2. https://www.nmds-sc-online.org.uk/reportengine/GuestDashboard.aspx?type=TurnoverRate
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/10/homecare-future-local-authority-funding-cuts-david-miles-interview

Our latest whitepaper explores the current state of play of recruitment in the healthcare sector and should enable your business to identify key areas for improvement.

Read our latest articles