Everything is connected

What will the healthcare levy mean for workers generally, and those in health and social care, amid staffing shortages?

a care worker bandaging an elderly man's arm


It’s the end of the first full week back at school and it’s been a bit of a shock to the system for many, especially teenagers. For a lot of people, of course, there has been a return to the commute, even if only for part of the week. It’s a time of very mixed emotions.

HR experts say they have noted a rise in grievances being lodged, for instance, by people who don’t want to go back to work some or all of the week. It’s hard to know how this will play out in a world of skills shortages.

There have also been concerns about the impact on jobs of the new tax levy for the NHS and social care on jobs with some warning that it could lead to some difficult decisions, particularly for those still on furlough. Yet that is set against ongoing news of skills shortages. The Governor of the Bank of England has urged those who have left the workforce to return to employment amid concerns that shortages are holding back Britain’s economic recovery while the latest jobs report from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and KPMG reveals that permanent job placements rose at a record pace in August with the number of new vacancies down only slightly from July’s record high.

What is clear is that staffing is a real problem for employers, not just recruitment but retention, and that ongoing costs will probably be passed on to consumers and service users. The recruitment market is very jittery with concerns about people moving on quickly. Employers will need to do their best to engage with employees, given the cost of losing them, recruiting and training them is mounting. That could be good news for those seeking flexible working.

Yet there are many different currents moving around. For instance, while the healthcare levy will mean more money for health and social care – which experts argue is not enough – it will hit those already struggling with reduced income and higher basic costs such as food and energy bills. Many of those on low wages work in the health and social care sector, whether directly or through outsourced companies. Will the extra money see the significant increases in their salaries that would make a difference in light of rising prices? If not, how likely is it that they will leave the sector, tempted by large private companies such as Amazon which can afford to offer higher wages and bonuses? If they leave, what is the impact on, for instance, care homes’ ability to provide quality care or even to stay open? And if they close, who will do the caring and what impact will that have on skills shortages if they have to drop out of the workforce to do so?

There are so many different factors that affect key enabling factors for work – childcare being another – that it is hard to see where this will end up. First, we were worried about unemployment and a lack of jobs after Covid, and that is still a concern for some. Now we are worried about too many jobs and not enough people to fill them. Neither is a good scenario and everything is linked. You have to have an overall vision of how things connect up and what needs to be done to make them work better to build a properly functioning economy.  At the moment, everything seems to be about chaos, reacting to chaos and short-term political considerations. The lack of any kind of overall vision is palpable.

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