Researchers in London are calling for a ‘new deal’ for health and care staff that acknowledges their value to society following the outbreak of COVID-19.
A new report from King’s Business School urges the government to develop a new model of employment relations, characterised as ‘fair care work’, to tackle the challenges exposed by the virus.
The paper ‘Fair Care Work: A post Covid-19 agenda for integrated employment relations in health and social care’, explains that while the Thursday night Clap for Carers acknowledged the contribution of frontline care workers in fighting the virus, now is the time to reward them with more than just applause.
Researchers urge policy makers and practitioners to consider how this sentiment can be captured in the fair treatment at work of these health and social care employees and explores four key dimensions: pay, outsourcing, training and migrant workers.
These views are shared by MPs who called for parity of esteem between NHS and social care workers, and full recognition and reward for the health and care workforce, during a parliament debate last week.
Professor Ian Kessler, who led the research, said the features of employment relations have “cruelly hampered” the capacity of health and social care providers to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
“They have led to difficulties in recruiting and retaining frontline care staff, reflected in the shortfall of around 40,000 registered nurses, and arguably contributed to a lack preparation, not least apparent in the initial shortages of personal protective equipment for staff,” he said.
“As the terror of this pandemic begins to subside, it feels like the right moment to start talking about how to rebuild and re-regulate our health and social care system. It not enough to just clap for our carers, it’s time to make meaningful changes to the working practices that have seen them undervalued and dismissed for far too long”.
Researchers have proposed that a new model of employee relations should be based on four key principles:
- The greater integration of employment relations within the health and social care and public and private sectors;
- The re-evaluation of job worth, with implications for pay rates and increasing, seeking a more even distribution of training resources and opportunities, and addressing the systemic behaviours of casting migrant care workers as ‘the other’ rather than as ‘one of us’;
- Fair care work to reflect the enduring debt the community owes to the health and social care workforce in dealing with COVID-19. The paper suggests that compliance of such standards might be given effect by broadening the remit of the Care Quality Commission;
- The re-affirmation of the longstanding public policy commitment to worker representation by trade unions and professional associations as the basis for industrial citizenship and the vehicle for workers to effectively articulate and pursue their legitimate interests.
Image credit: Care Sourcer.