Service efficiency
Jul 1, 2022

Asking for more pay and benefits

Mark Topps looks at what employees and employers can do to tackle pay and benefits, to aid recruitment and retention of the workforce and improve working conditions.

Mark Topps
Mark Topps
Regional Business Manager

Table of contents

A snapshot of pay and benefits in social care

Last week we saw railway staff strike over their pay and working conditions, which has spurred on various other sectors to talk openly about their salaries and benefits, including carers. This has led to one social care provider facing staff strikes due to a fire and re-hire plan, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see other teams following suit.

So, how can we approach the conversation about pay and benefits to our organisations and should organisations be doing more to seek feedback about the benefits they offer and what their teams would like?

What you can do as an employee

Speak to your line manager

Many industries have open conversations around pay but social care appears to be more reserved. We need to tackle the issue head on and have candid conversations about this, but finding the right time to ask can be tricky.

I’d recommend bringing it up at an annual appraisal, as you can reflect on your role, your strengths and the vision for your career going forward. If you haven’t got an appraisal any time soon, you can always speak about it during a supervision or add it as an agenda item added onto a team meeting. If you’d prefer it to be more formal, you can send an email or letter request to your manager.

From experience, I always think a face-to-face conversation. My advice, be prepared to talk about why you deserve a pay increase. At the end of the day, the worst that can happen is that they say no.

Consider your career development

There are more roles available in social care than ever before, many of which come with additional responsibilities and larger salaries. You can work towards one of these by gaining additional qualifications and experience.

However, climbing the career ladder isn’t for everybody, but there are always opportunities to train and develop further. By gaining new skills and applying these to your existing role, you’re adding more value and that’s something you can be rewarded for, be it financially, with time in lieu etc. Have a chat with your manager and demonstrate how these new skills are benefiting your service.

See what’s out there on the job market

The majority of us love our jobs and workplaces but evidence has found that job hopping can be better for your pay than sticking with your current employer. Go away and do some research to see what salaries are out there, then present this to your manager – it’s likely they aren’t aware of other pay grades and salaries.

I’m not advocating for anyone reading this to start moving organisations - the grass isn’t always greener as they say. But we all have bills to pay and if another organisation is paying a lot more than you’re currently on, financially it makes sense. Just make sure you do your research before committing to any decisions.

What you can do as an employer

Reflect on the situation

It’s important to look at what you’re currently offering and what you could offer. It may be that we can’t increase pay, but we can supplement this with suitable benefits like:

  • Enhanced annual leave entitlement
  • Fitness perks such as discounts on gyms/yoga etc.
  • Flexible working
  • Free food and drink
  • Medical/life insurance
  • Paid family leave
  • Paying professional subscriptions
  • Sick pay.

Whatever you decide on, the most important thing is to make sure your care teams actually want them.

Get feedback from your team

It’s important to seek feedback on what our employees would like. Ask questions that will get a response, and don’t be afraid of negative feedback – this will help you to fine tune your offering.

You can get this during team meetings, by sending out staff surveys etc. I’d recommend setting up an initial meeting so staff know their happiness is something you’re actively thinking about. It will show you care about their interests and want their feedback.

Remember, it may be that you can’t financially afford to increase pay, and you can be honest with them about this, but you can focus on other things in your toolbox that you can offer.

Undertake a competitor analysis

Checking what other providers and sectors are paying within your local area is key. I’d recommend doing this at least twice a year, adapting this to the current job climate.

It’s good to know what your competitors are paying and their benefits as it gives you a benchmark and allows you to compete in the market.

Consider incentives

Our staff hold a lot of responsibility, so why not recognise this by rewarding an employee? For example, you could introduce a champion in a specific area, such as medication or health and safety, and give them an extra 20p per hour, alongside upskilling their knowledge through training and development.

Some care teams only have certain staff administering medication or holding keys, and it could be that you incentivise this, which in turn would encourage others to want to take on these responsibilities.

Remember, incentives don’t have to be financial and can take the form of extra days off, flexible working, recognition on social media etc.

Introduce pay scales and performance-related opportunities

Pay scales are a great framework for wage progression and not widely used within the sector. Run alongside performance related goals, they can offer and encourage positive behaviour and targets for employees to achieve.

From a recruitment point of view, pay scales will give employees the feeling that they have opportunities for growth and something to work towards, but also recognise length of service.

It’s important to note that pay scales don’t have to be goal or performance-related and could be based on length of service, level of qualification/experience etc.

Develop a retention and succession plan

This is key for any organisation when dealing with staff turnover.

Who better to recruit and upskill than your existing team members? Having a position to hire internally demonstrates commitment your existing staff and creates a clear career pathway for them.

From an employee’s perspective it gives them an opportunity to develop and set goals. As people achieve within their careers, this will in turn be reflected in their salary.

My final words of advice

Most of us don’t work in the sector for pay, we do it because we love our jobs and want to make a difference to peoples’ lives. It is however important to take a step back every now and again, look at what other organisations are paying and think of our personal needs as well.

Employee benefits are often an afterthought or an add on when promoting a role, and many perks are never used by employees, which cost organisations thousands of pounds per year. By spending some time reflecting and listening to your staff you can develop a benefit offering that’s both desirable and aids recruitment and retention.

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