People wishing to join the care sector during the coronavirus pandemic will now be able to so without losing their furloughed pay from their primary employer, the government has confirmed.
The news comes as a victory for care representatives who called for an urgent change to legislation last week to allow more recruits to join the sector and deliver essential services.
An independent care group made up of Care England, Scottish Care, Fforwm Gofal Cymru (Care Forum Wales) and the Independent Health and Care Providers (IHCP), wrote to the government outlining the urgent need for more care workers to cover the increased demand on their services amidst staff shortages caused by sickness and self‐isolation.
In response, HMRC updated its guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, stating that furloughed staff can work or volunteer for other organisations, even if they are currently furloughed and receiving 80% of their wage.
Law firm Royds Withy King said the update throws a lifeline to industry sectors desperate for staff, including social care and healthcare.
David Israel, Partner and employment law specialist at Royds Withy King said: “This provides a significant opportunity for furloughed staff either on a paid or unpaid basis to help businesses and organisations that need staff to survive the coronavirus crisis or to replace staff who are off work because they or their family members are in vulnerable groups.
“We can see this confirmation from government being particularly helpful to the retail distribution, care, and agricultural sectors.”
James Sage, Head of the Social Care team at Royds Withy King, added: “Care providers have told us that they have lost 25% of their workforce due to the coronavirus and are in need volunteers and additional staff now. This guidance from government offers them a real lifeline.
“The challenge, however, will be creating awareness and directing furloughed staff from other industries to vacancies in the care sector. A national social media campaign would be needed to see significant gains, but care providers can also run their own local and regional campaigns.”
Sage said another possible solution for attracting new recruits is Care Friends, an employee referral app for social care innovator Neil Eastwood.
“This could be utilised by providers to recruit the friends and family of their workforce who may have been furloughed from their jobs,” he said.
Professor Martin Green, CEO of Care England, commented: “We welcome government clarifications that appear to state that contingent upon their existing contracts, social care staff can use this scheme in the same way as other sectors. This should allow care providers to recruit more staff during this time of crisis.”