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The Living Wage is a step towards giving care staff the status they deserve

Neil Russell, Chairman of specialist care providers, PJ Care – a Living Wage Employer, explains how a Living Wage impacts on how care staff are perceived.

The last 12 months have thrown health and social care into the spotlight, bringing to the fore the incredible work care staff do every day.

It’s a sad truth that social care has not been widely valued and care staff have traditionally been among the lowest paid workers in the UK.  Yet they do an essential job, giving care, support and building lifestyles for the most precious thingsin our lives – our family members.

It was hugely important to us to become an accredited Living Wage Employer because our staff are incredible.  They carry out the tasks that others simply couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do.  They give our residents, who have a range of neurological conditions and acquired brain injuries, the best possible quality of life and ensure they remain healthy and safe.

Because of the varied and often challenging needs our residents have, their job isn’t an easy one.  Yet they approach it with positivity, care and pride.

The minimum wage set by the government is not enough to give our staff the same quality of life they give our residents.  Ensuring our staff can afford to eat and live properly is the least we can do, even if it means higher paid members of staff have to forego a pay rise. 

And they have.  2021 will be the third year in a row that our board members have agreed to a pay freeze in order to benefit their colleagues. 

PJ Care becoming a Living Wage Employer has wider implications than for our staff alone. 

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated exactly how important care workers are but people’s memories can be very short.  Paying a wage that allows staff to live better is a step towards their role gaining greater status.  It shows they are valued – by us as employers, by the residents, by families and by their community.

Staff care and support has long been a focus for us.  We have a dedicated Head of Joy and Wellbeing as well as an excellent benefits package, an employee rewards scheme and training and development.

Much as these make a difference to staff, having an addition to their pay that appears regularly every month gives them the ability to plan ahead and make more choices.

We introduced the Living Wage in April and the feedback we’ve received has shown us the difference it’s already making.  Staff have told us it’s removed some of their financial worries which has reduced their stress levels, and we’re seeing they can focus more on the quality of care they give.

“I think it is very good they have committed to the Living Wage,” said senior healthcare assistant Becky Smith.  “They are considering our financial welfare but it’s also very helpful for getting new team members and keeping staff.”

“Although you do not do this job for the wage, it sure will keep me loyal,” said Stephen Draycott, another of our healthcare staff.  “It will send out a 'generous' message to an undervalued sector, which in turn will attract more professionals.”

We feel proud to have achieved accreditation despite the additional costs the pandemic has brought us.  Seeing staff happier and more relaxed makes us even more proud. 

The benefits of commiting to the Living Wage come back to employers in having a workforce that feels more acknowledged, more respected and more able to focus on their tasks.

We would encourage every employer to sign up.

 

21st June 2021
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