112,000 vacancies and 4,000 applications: UK sees aged care workers depart for NHS and hospitality sector – is Australia next?

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Last week, we caught up with Neil Eastwood, the Founder and CEO of Care Friends, the UK-based employer referral and reward app for aged care, health and disability providers. Neil says that Australia is tracking around six to nine months behind the UK in terms of aged care workforce shortages – and he has a warning for operators here.

Aged care providers in the UK are facing a massive vacancy rate with a 40 to 50% reduction in the size of candidate pools from 12 to 18 months ago – and that angle is increasing.

COVID-19 is a major factor in this rising problem.

The UK was already facing workforce pressures due to Brexit when COVID-19 hit last year. Many migrant workers returned to their homes overseas and were unable to come back.

Hospitality hunting for workers

The hospitality sector began to look for staff outside of its normal routes and realised that aged care staff had the right kind of customer experience. The National Health Service is also in need of staff as it copes with the UK’s continuing caseload.

“As we have come out of COVID, there has been a huge bounce back of the economy with many people who have been trapped at home wanting to go out and eat and drink. That has meant a huge increase in jobs – and that in turn has created a massive amount of vacancies,” he said.

Combined with high levels of PTSD among staff and an 11 November deadline for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, providers are seeing massive workforce shortages.

At the same time, there has been a huge demand for care in over 50% of the local government areas due to long COVID complications, mental health problems and family carer breakdown.

Demand for home care has also increased dramatically, but providers lack the staff to service the packages.

“I spoke to one provider on the South Coast that had 1,000 staff or so and they contract with a number of councils. They are contracted to pick up 70% of home care packages as they appear and they’re running at 22% pickup – so the amount of unmet care is huge.”

Meanwhile hospitality sectors is offering substantial pay rises to secure staff.

Care Friends seeing 1 in 5 conversion rates

Care Friends is seeing considerable success at their end to bridge this gap – in total, the app has 1.5 million users in the UK which is delivering around 2% of the vacancies that exist.

In aged care, employers are converting one in every five applicants compared to one in 50 for SEEK.

The question is: could Australia see a similar situation here as we head towards summer and the end of lockdown restrictions?

Ahead of NSW’s 11 October move to reopen cafés, restaurants and bars, SEEK is reporting a surge in jobs ads for hospitality workers.

Borders are also likely to remain closed to higher levels of migration for some time with the NSW Government only set to trial a program to quarantine returning international students later this year.

With Neil forecasting that Australia is closing the gap on the UK, we will find out soon.