Home care providers appear to have been spared the staff shortages affecting some residential facilities during COVID-19 but that could change, a webinar has heard.
Aged care management and training consultant Lorraine Poulos says she conducted a survey of home care providers on April 17 that indicated home care providers are not lacking staff, often because of falling demand for services as clients isolate.
“The feedback is not telling us that there are staff shortages in home care,” Ms Poulos told the April 20 webinar, titled Managing Your Staff During COVID-19.
But she warned this could change quickly as restrictions around social participation are relaxed.
A good time to recruit
For many providers, now is a good time to think about recruitment, she said.
However, the quality standards demand a suitable, qualified and capable workforce, Ms Poulos said, and providers need to be mindful of the risks involved in recruiting during an emergency.
These included underemployment of staff, lack of PPE, and ending up with ‘too many chiefs’.
“If we do recruit we need to look at the long term impacts,” she said.
Ms Poulos stressed that providers also need to ensure they are clear about staff entitlements, including if an employee has to be stood down, is sick or is stuck overseas.
Managers should also appraise themselves of available government assistance including JobKeeper payments and the $234.9 million staff retention bonus which is expected to come through in June and September as part of the federal government’s aged care assistance package.
Attracting good staff
Aged Care HR consultant P J Maynard told the webinar said it was important to protect and build a good employer brand in order to attract the best workers, not only through COVID-19 but beyond.
“In aged care we all know brands that don’t have a fabulous reputation, and not having a good reputation in this industry is a huge risk and it does affect your ability to attract and keep good staff,” she said.
“If you’re not giving your candidates a positive experience through your recruitment funnel and the way you do things that’s absolutely going to impact your employer brand.”
Strong leadership would reap continuity, commitment and content in the workforce, she said.
Former Benetas Home Care General manager and industry expert Jeremy McCauliffe said aged care managers are facing a range of workforce challenges including uncertainty, misinformation about Covid, exposure risks and low morale among staff.
He told the webinar that managers are stressed and overworked, trying to balance rights of workers with needs of clients, scare PPE, unrealistic expectations from staff and consumers and increased mental health issues and bullying from COVID pressures.
“Some of the messages we’re getting from managers is there’s a lot of confusion, anxiety, a lot of people are feeling overwhelmed. It is a very new situation for most of us I don’t think many of us would have worked in a situation like this previously.”
But he said managers need to realise these are unusual times and the way through was to listen to staff without judgement, and provide guidance and clear instructions.
Leadership more important than ever in this time, he said.
“We know good leaders walk the talk and model good behavior,” he said.
“Let’s make sure we’re all asking ourselves what do I need to look like right now as a good leader.
“It’s time to keep calm and stay in control. How leaders present will shape the way those being led behave and respond.”
Watch the full webinar here