It goes without saying that care workers need to be committed, patient, flexible and capable of dealing with difficult, high pressure situations.

And it will likely come as no shock to learn that most professional caregivers earn little more than minimum wage.

So we could rightfully expect caregivers to ask; “what’s in it for us?”

Health and Social Care is a demanding and self-effacing career path to choose; standards in service are closely examined and scrutinised (despite challenges in funding), and the safety and welfare of patients is top priority.

But despite challenges faced by the sector, it is imperative that care providers continue to attract high performing, qualified professionals to their care homes. 

Omar Ahmad, owner of the Sage Care Home Group, fears that a shortage of nurses and qualified healthcare staff may threaten the quality of service provided across the country:

“To have a successful care home, you need quality staff, and if you can’t get the staff it falls apart very quickly.”  

So how can we ensure that the social care sector attracts and retains the high quality staff it so desperately needs?

Well firstly, we need to know a little more about the people we’re talking about, and what they want from an employer. 

The vast majority of care workers are good, selfless people; and we’ve got the proof.

A survey of 10,728 UK workers undertaken as part of the world’s largest employer branding exercise found that people from every sector and industry in the UK list salary and benefits as their number one priority when choosing a new employer.  

The only exception to this is social workers, who listed long term job security (22%) as their number one consideration. Less than one in four (18%) social workers said that a competitive salary and employee benefits would be their main consideration. 

Social workers’ top 10 considerations when looking for an employer

Priority when looking for an employer Proportion top priority
Long-term job security 22%
Competitive salary & employee benefit 18%
Interesting job content 10%
Conveniently located 9%
Work-life balance 8%
Pleasant working atmosphere 7%
Flexible working arrangements (flexitime, teleworking, etc.) 5%
Career progression opportunities 4%
Employer is financially healthy 4%
Offers quality products/services 4%

This contrasts sharply with the preferences of nurses, teachers and doctors, who regard earnings as the number one factor that attracts them to an employer.

If we look at Payscale’s average salary calculator, we can compare and benchmark earnings: 
• Social Worker - £26,115 per year
• Registered Nurse (RN) - £23,214 per year
• High School Teacher - £29,542 per year
• Doctor (General Practice) - £50,463 per year

This suggests that average earning potential does not correlate with employer attractiveness factors, as despite earning more than nurses and only marginally less than teachers, social workers were still the only band to seek job security over salary. 

Social workers also come second only to lawyers (7%) when asked about the importance of an employer’s reputation for quality of service.

Almost one in twenty (4%) consider the quality of their prospective employer’s client service above all other factors when choosing who to work for.  

This means that they rank quality of service ahead of all other issues including pay, job security, location, convenience, work-life balance, or even a pleasant working atmosphere.

Having recognised this already, many care providers are now working directly towards achieving an ‘outstanding care rating’ and a number of new initiatives have been introduced in an attempt to better regulate the care industry and encourage newcomers, including the Care Act 3, the Care Certificate 4, Social Care Commitment 5 and Skills for Care ‘I-Care Ambassadors’ 6. 

It’s now up to us as employers and recruiters to reassure social workers that this is an attractive and most importantly, a secure sector to work in.