Caregiver job creep: How to ask for a raise when you're expected to do more work

May 28, 2021

The past year has brought major changes to the senior care industry. The pandemic forced many caregivers to change how they operate, adding new cleaning procedures and stocking up on additional safety equipment to protect themselves and their patients. Additionally, some long-term care and assisted living facilities are now facing staff shortages that leave employed care workers overburdened.

Working in senior care often requires patience, dedication and flexibility. “The people I know who are called to work in senior living, they really care,” says Star Bradbury, a Florida senior care expert with Senior Living Strategies who has more than 25 years of experience in the industry. “They care about their patients. They care about the residents in senior living facilities. They want to do right by them.”

But how can you tell when you’re being asked to do too much, and what options do you have when the demands of your job start to outpace the rate you’re being paid? Job creep, or the gradual addition of extra, unpaid job responsibilities, is an ongoing problem for many senior caregiving professionals. We asked experts how to know when it’s happening to you — and what you can do to ensure you’re being compensated fairly for all of the extra work.

How you might experience job creep

Job creep, or scope creep, happens when you’re continually asked to perform additional duties outside of your usual role, and there’s no change in compensation. “Typically, it’s the employer saying that for some specific reason, such as COVID-19, for example, they need you to take on extra tasks while still doing everything else you’re already supposed to do,” Bradbury explains.

According to Bradbury, examples of job creep include:

  • Extensive cleaning protocols adopted during the pandemic.

  • Being asked to perform higher levels of care.

  • Covering multiple roles due to ongoing staff shortages.

  • Frequent requests to work overtime or double shifts.

  • Being asked to move patients in and out of a facility or transition residents to new living quarters when it’s not typically your role to do so.

How to know when it's time to ask for a raise

It’s normal to occasionally need to step up at work during a busy week or to fill gaps in the schedule; however, those circumstances should be temporary. You’ll know you’re experiencing job creep when the new responsibilities seem like they’re becoming a permanent part of your role. “If you have been asked for two to three months to continue to do a lot of extra duties, it’s time to go to your supervisor,” Bradbury says.

Additionally, you should talk to your manager if you’re experiencing signs of burnout, says Becca Carnahan, a career coach and founder of Becca Carnahan Career Coaching & Communications. She recommend asking yourself the following questions:

  • Has your mood or attitude about work deteriorated?

  • Do you feel stressed all the time?

  • Has your workload become unmanageable in a typical day or week?

“It’s important to speak up in those situations because your manager may not be fully aware of your workload since you’ve been handling it so well behind the scenes,” Carnahan explains.

How to ask for a raise related to job creep

Once you’ve decided it’s time to bring your concerns to your employer, there are some important steps you should take to prepare for a successful conversation.

1. Document everything

If you’re asking for an adjustment in pay due to job creep, you need to present concrete examples of how your role has changed. “Review your current job description, and make a list of things you have worked on that are outside of the scope,” Carnahan says.

Note how long you’ve assumed these extra duties, as well as any additional training you’ve had to complete to successfully meet the new demands of your job. “This shows your supervisor that you are prepared, and you’re really serious,” Bradbury adds. “You want to have a list that you can pull out to explain all of your strengths and the exact reasons why you are worth more than they’re paying you.”

2. Research pay rates

Use an online salary tool to do some salary benchmarking based on your industry, function and location, Carnahan suggests. Using these tools, you can check out the rates for similar roles in your own city, as well as the national average.

If you’re working in a care facility, hospital or assisted living community, it may also be helpful to compare rates within your own company, if possible. “Your company may have salary ranges available through human resources that you can refer to so you can see where your salary currently falls in the range and what parameters you may be working within,” Carnahan adds.

3. Pinpoint your goals

“It’s important to know what you are asking for,” Carnahan says. “Do you have a specific pay grade or raise in mind? In a salary negotiation you generally don’t want to anchor yourself in a range and would ideally like the employer to make the first offer. However, you should have a number in mind based on your research of equivalent roles or the value you are driving within the company.”

4. Request a meeting with your client or supervisor

Once you’ve done all the necessary prep work, set up a meeting with your client or supervisor. “This should be a face-to-face or video conference meeting,” Carnahan says. “Explain that you would like to talk about how your role has changed over the past months and would like to discuss your current compensation. Setting expectations can calm your nerves as well.”

Tips for having a successful conversation about compensation

Have a positive attitude

“As basic as that sounds, a positive attitude goes such a long way towards ensuring a successful outcome,” Bradbury says. 

Remember, you are working with your employer, not against them. Reiterate the things you enjoy about your job and how much you want to continue in your role. “You don’t want to be demanding,” she adds. “Approach the conversation with a humble, inquisitive attitude, but also back up why you feel you are in a position to be paid more.”

Ask open-ended questions

In this conversation, you’re exploring the options, Bradbury says. “I would start by asking open-ended questions with no judgment,” she advises. For example:

  • “Are the new job duties we’ve added because of COVID-19 going to be a part of our normal job description?”

  • “For the last six months, I’ve been doing these tasks that didn’t used to be a part of my job. Are there plans for additional compensation?”

  • “I’ve heard other facilities are adding additional compensation for these tasks. Is that something that may be in my future?”

“You’re trying to get an idea whether the company or person you work for is stepping back and looking at the issue of job creep,” Bradbury says. “That will give you an opening to offer your solutions.”

Be flexible

“Consider how you can be thoughtful and strategic about the negotiation,” Carnahan says. “Think about all elements of the job, like financial compensation and non-financial benefits, and what is most meaningful to you.”

If a raise isn’t possible, she adds, you may consider asking about the following:

  • Increased performance bonuses.

  • Increased schedule flexibility.

  • Compensation for additional training.

  • An early promotion review.

  • Stock options, if you’re working for a facility where those are offered.

“Think about your best alternative to the negotiated agreement and what you truly want and need so you have a clear idea of what success looks like to you,” she says.

Don't be afraid to push back when necessary

“You have to be brave enough to say, ‘Well, I was really hoping to get 25 cents more an hour or 50 cents more an hour. Is there room to negotiate?’” Bradbury says. “You have to put the question back on them. Do not be afraid to negotiate for yourself.”

Asking for a raise can be a nerve-racking experience, but being paid what you are worth is vital to your well-being and your ability to best care for your patients. “Stand up for yourself,” Bradbury says, “because if you don’t, no one else will.”

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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