This page explains our policy position on improving the retention of people working in social care - and sets out what we want to see, the current situation and solutions.
What do we want to see?
We want good people working in social care to stay in the sector.
There will be a positive workplace culture and clear opportunities for career progression and development, contributing to high job satisfaction and low turnover.
The current situation
We estimate that the turnover rate in 2021-22 was 29.0% for permanent and temporarily employed staff working in the adult social care sector. This was approximately 400,000 leavers, although 63% of leavers remained within the sector.
Those who travel further for work are more likely to leave their role. The average turnover rate for care workers in the independent sector was 7.3 percentage points higher for those that travel more than 20km (38.4%) to work compared to those who travel less than 1km (30.7%).
The sector struggles to retain younger workers. The turnover rate amongst under-20s was 52.6%, compared to 24.1% for those 60 and above.
People leave the sector soon after joining. The average turnover rate for those with less than one year of experience in sector was 43.7%. This decreased to just 20.4% for those with 20 years or more experience.
Those paid more are less likely to leave their roles, and turnover rates are higher for those on zero-hours contracts. The average turnover rate for someone on a zero-hours contract was 5.8 percentage points higher for care workers with zero contracted hours per week, compared to those with more than 35 contracted hours per week.
Retention challenges vary depending on the role. The turnover rate was 36.1% for care workers and 44.1% for registered nurses, but only 12.1% for occupational therapists and 17.5% for senior care workers.
However, some employers have been able to keep their turnover rate below 10% and we have good insight into the secrets of their success.
Evidence shows that factors that have the most impact on turnover rates include:
Recruiting the right people in the first place. Our research into a values based approach to recruitment and retention has found that recruiting staff based on their values helps attract people who stay longer. For every £1 spent on values-based recruitment, there was a return on investment for employers of £1.23, due to lower turnover and training costs.
Pay. People need to earn enough money to live on. Pay also helps people feel valued and that social care is a fulfilling, long-term career that provides opportunities for meaningful progression and development. Our new starters' experience research shows that employers who pay their staff higher wages have lower staff turnover as well as better CQC ratings.
Terms and conditions. Evidence shows us that the balance of flexibility and secure rota shifts are valued by employees. Skills for Care’s data show that turnover is higher when more employees are on zero-hours contracts. We know that this is often because providers are commissioned in a way that makes it difficult to plan. But, where possible, the use of zero-hours contracts should be restricted unless requested by the individual.
Investment in learning and development. Our data show that employers who invest in the skills and knowledge of their workforce – starting with an effective induction – have lower turnover rates. Staff that have a relevant social care qualification are less likely to leave their role.
Leadership and culture. There is evidence that compassionate leadership, that recognises and values staff, results in more engaged and motivated staff with high levels of wellbeing. This, in turn, results in high-quality care. Skills for Care’s research on recruitment and retention in adult social care shows improved retention when you embed values of the organisation, celebrate achievement and involve staff in decision making.
Wellbeing. A long-term, personalised and inclusive approach to supporting workforce wellbeing is an important part of retention. Workforce burnout is a significant concern than impacts on retention rates and subsequently the continuity and quality of care. Supportive and personalised onboarding processes, including peer support are important as data shows that people are most likely to leave in the first 90 days.