Would choosing your shift patterns stop you from quitting?

Care home provider’s flexible policy has given nurses a better work-life balance, as well as decreasing staff turnover and halving the agency bill
Illustration showing nurses choosing shifts from timetable

Care home provider’s flexible policy has given nurses a better work-life balance, as well as decreasing staff turnover and halving the agency bill

Illustration showing nurses choosing shifts from timetable
Picture: iStock

Nurses working for a care home provider are able to fit their shift patterns around their lifestyle in a programme designed to boost recruitment and retention.

The Maria Mallaband Care Group has seen a significant reduction in staff turnover and use of agency nurses after introducing a ‘tell us the hours you want to work’ policy.

Flexible approach has brought benefits

The group, which employs about 5,500 staff, including more than 580 nurses, at 80 care homes in England and Scotland, had previously focused on full-time contracts. It began piloting a more flexible approach in September 2022, starting with 24 of its care homes.

Candidates applying for nursing and care worker roles were invited to state the working hours that would fit with responsibilities such as studying, childcare, caring for older relatives or another job.

The initiative proved so successful that it was rolled out to another 20 homes and has since been expanded to the whole group, with about 45% of new recruits working flexible hours.

Reductions on staff turnover and agency bill

Chief people officer Susan Jones said staff turnover had reduced by up to 15% in the past 12 months, while the group’s agency bill had halved.

She added: ‘The difference in our turnover rate is stark and for me that is the acid test of how people feel about the role and whether or not they’re prepared to stay.’

Care home group accommodates staff’s desired hours where possible

Group head of talent Laura Finlay told Nursing Standard it made sense to move away from traditional full-time contracts to attract a wider range of people by providing the work-life balance they were seeking.

‘People can tell us the hours they want to work and where we can accommodate those we absolutely will,’ she added.

‘But we do have to think about it from a business perspective and whether it will work for our residents’ care.

‘We’re lucky because we have a lot of care homes that are clustered together so while it may not work in one home, we’ll always try and see if another could accommodate those working hours.’

Flexibility has improved consistency of care and staff retention

Ms Finlay said managers were initially concerned about how rotas would work but were now seeing the benefits.

‘They were worried about some of the logistics but now see the value and, even if a manager hasn’t got flexible shifts, they will say: “If they’re a good candidate we’ll see them or we’ll make it happen”.

‘It actually means less work because they’re not having to go to various agencies to fill shifts.’

Nurse Aaron Barham, manager of Highfield Care Home in Saffron Walden, said the flexible hours policy was working and ‘has enabled consistency of care and we retain our nurses’.

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