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Easy ways for caregivers to negotiate for a higher pay rate, according to experts

Even though your skills are needed, it’s likely you will still need to be smart when it comes to negotiating the pay and benefits in any new senior caregiving role.

Easy ways for caregivers to negotiate for a higher pay rate, according to experts

Now, more than ever, there’s skyrocketing demand for experienced senior care professionals. A report by GenWorth finds that every day until 2030, nearly 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65, and as many as seven out of 10 people over 65 will require long-term care in their lifetime. As the senior population grows, so does the need for skilled workers who can provide support, innovation and quality care.

Even though your skills are needed, it’s likely you will still need to be smart when it comes to negotiating the pay and benefits in any new senior caregiving role. Hourly pay rates for senior caregivers can vary widely, from $13.25 to just under $18, depending on where you live. And, whether your position is salaried or hourly, in a long term care facility or working in-home with individual clients, there are so many factors that can influence how much a particular role pays.

In a growing and competitive industry like senior care, knowing the value of your skills and preparing yourself for negotiations ahead of time can help ensure you’re paid what you deserve. Before you interview for your next senior care role, review these expert tips for an easier and more successful pay negotiation. 

How to prep for negotiations

Payment negotiations don’t happen on the fly. You can and should walk into each role in your career with a clear idea of your skills and how you expect to be compensated. Here’s how to make sure you’re prepared to get the most out of each conversation.

Research, research, research

In order to walk into a pay negotiation with confidence, you need to know what your skills are worth. Begin by researching market rates to get a clear idea of what others in your area are being paid for similar work. Remember that how much a particular senior care job pays will depend on multiple factors. 

“The rates of pay are generally a function of the complexity of the job, the geography and amount of hours requested,” says Steven Barlam, a licensed clinical social worker and member of the Board of Directors for the Aging Life Care Association. 

Important factors to consider include:

  • Demand for the position.
  • The scope of the job duties.
  • The need for specialized training or certifications.
  • Where the job is located.
  • Whether the position is salaried or paid hourly.

Pay rates may also vary depending on whether the role is for in-home care or in a skilled care facility. “Often, care facilities, while not always at the top of the pay grade, will offer more stable, guaranteed work with benefits,” Barlam adds.

Determine your bottom line

Don’t walk into a pay negotiation without knowing your limits. After doing some research, decide on your ideal pay range and the lowest rate you’re willing to accept. To ensure you’re coming in with a competitive offer, consider the size of the employer and any existing pay structures that may exist, says Caroline Morris, a board-certified geriatric physical therapist in Alexandria, Virginia.

“The hospital where I work has a clearly defined pay structure and raise structure, which limits the role of negotiation,” she explains. “It is likely easier to negotiate in a smaller setting or when there is a shortage of candidates for your position.”

Rehearse your lines

Before your interview or meeting with your manager, go over your main talking points for the conversation ahead. It may help to write down specific items you want to mention, such as special qualifications or other professional accomplishments that set you apart.

Most importantly, says Morris, let go of doubts about asking for what you’re worth.

“Practice stating your number, especially one that is higher than you expect to be offered, and then stop talking,” she advises. “Too often, we talk too much and start listing the reasons why we don’t deserve higher pay before the manager has even had a chance to respond.”

How to ask for a raise

Pay rate is usually discussed during in-person interviews or along with the initial job offer. If you’ve done the necessary prep work, you should be ready to approach the discussion openly, skillfully and with confidence. Here are some key things to remember when the time comes.

Don’t wait to have the talk

It’s no secret that negotiating often makes people nervous. When you’re taking a new job, it may be tempting to accept whatever rate is offered and try to negotiate or ask for a raise later on. This likely won’t be a winning strategy for you or the employer, says Barlam, and it could lead to conflict or unhappiness down the road.

“[Employers] want to avoid turnover,” he explains. “Nothing is worse than having to go through one caregiver after another. Therefore, setting an appropriate pay rate right at the beginning, in a manner that feels fair to both the employee and the employer, will lead to a longer smooth running relationship.”

Come prepared

A successful negotiation depends on preparation, says Barlam. If you’ve done the research, chosen your desired pay range and practiced what you’re going to say, the next step is to show up to your meeting or interview fully prepared with concrete evidence of your qualifications and any documentation you might need.

“In order for a worker to command the highest appropriate salary, a candidate should convey a sense of genuine confidence that they can be of help,” he explains. “This is usually accomplished when a senior care provider shows that they are organized, articulate, has copies of references and has a simple resume that outlines his or her level of experience.”

Make your value known

You know what you bring to the table. It’s time to make sure your employer knows it, too. Senior care is a competitive industry, and anything you bring to the job beyond the scope of the usual requirements may be a potential bargaining chip. When negotiating, says Morris, be sure to mention:

  • Advanced degrees.
  • Board certifications.
  • Specialized training, such as care for dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis or other complex health needs.
  • Your role in key initiatives or projects.
  • Your flexibility and willingness to cover hard-to-staff shifts.

“All of this can paint the picture as to why it would be better to staff you at a higher rate than to lose you,” says Morris. “Turnover is a major financial burden for healthcare employers, so most will do what they can — within reason — to minimize it.”

Don’t commit to a rate that isn’t right for you

Go in with that bottom line you landed on in mind, and be firm about it. Don’t be afraid to come in with a counter offer based on your own skills and research.

“During my first promotion to a management role, I was offered a 4% raise,” Morris explains. “I countered, citing that it was more than a 4% increase in responsibility, and I was able to end up with a better rate.”

If the employer is firm on a lower rate, find out if they offer regular raises or if they’re open to negotiating a higher pay rate with additional certifications or time on the job. If the pay rate doesn’t meet your bottom line and the future earning potential won’t help you thrive long-term, it may be necessary to walk away.

Remember you’re on the same team

Your employer doesn’t hold all the cards in a pay negotiation. You are a highly skilled employee with a strong commitment to your work, and it benefits employers to have a well paid, qualified care staff.

“Start the conversation with common goals that you share with your employer,” Morris says. “They will likely be more receptive if you make it a win-win by showing your commitment to your work and showing that you understand the organization’s priorities.”

Ultimately, you’re working towards the same thing: a mutually beneficial professional relationship that ensures the best quality care for patients. You are worth the pay it takes to achieve that goal.

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