Employment and the cost-of-living crisis: The Probe

The effects of the rising cost of living are being felt across the country. With household energy bills having increased by 50% in April, and again by October, many of you may be anxious about how your household will cope.[i] As the world emerged from lockdown, the demand for oil and gas had already increased. The Russian invasion of Ukraine caused a further jump in oil and gas prices, due to concerns about the disruption to supply. Food produce also saw an increase in price; meat has gone up in price, such as lamb (16.9%), beef (8.6%) and poultry (7.3%). Oils and fats have seen a rise of 18.1%.[ii]

The government has implemented strategies to help families with these growing costs, in the form of a rise in the National Insurance thresholds, doubled Household Support Fund and a cut to fuel duty.[iii] However, the effects of these measures may not be felt by everyone, having already felt the squeeze of mounting energy and food costs.

In terms of employment, how will these societal shifts affect members of the dental team?

Sifting through the team

 Due to increased living costs, many employers may feel pressured to raise wages. It had been suggested by the Bank of England governor that employees should not ask for a significant pay rise, in order to help control inflation. However, for many employees, a pay rise may help them to keep their head above water. Additionally, for employers, raising wages could help to retain staff members, although it could put a strain on their business, especially for larger practices with a bigger team. To balance these interests, employers may have to be more selective about who receives a pay rise/bonus.

However, with a recruitment crisis already in full swing in the UK, team members who are dissatisfied with their pay may simply look elsewhere to improve their situation. It is no secret that many dental nurses in particular are frustrated with their treatment in the profession, as well as their pay. However, with the National Minimum Wage (NMW) rising by 6.6%, many dental nurses will appreciate a boost in their wage slip. Numbers taken from our recent Benchmarking & Goodwill survey show that a dental nurse working a 40-hour week on NMW would see an increase in their wage of almost £1,228. This is certainly a step in the right direction to encourage more individuals to stay in the profession.

What this means for different professionals

As NHS revenues remain stationary, the NHS ratio of a ‘typical’ practice may reduce from the current 39.1%.[iv] This may prompt practices to hand back UDAs and focus more on private treatments. For the self-employed who concentrate more on NHS work, they may be losing out. However, for others, this change may provide greater flexibility, in addition to a greater salary. For instance, the average private hourly charge for a dental hygienist appointment is around £20 more expensive between predominately NHS and private practices.iv For the employer, a dental hygienist can be an important addition to the practice; on an hourly rate of £31.94, the practice looks to make an average GP margin of 74%, which is at least 50% greater than a typical associate.iv

Given the increasing costs of employment, by next year’s survey there may be big changes regarding staff costs. There are some significant variances on practice compositions, with predominately NHS practices sitting at 20.5% of revenue. This may not match with the average hourly rate of £9.13 being paid to NHS dental nurses (which is lower than both mixed and private practices); however, NHS practices do tend to be lower grossing per dental chair and have larger patient footfalls. This, of course, will require a greater number of staff, therefore increasing the cost of employment. £9.13 now sits below the NMW; though this average does include rates paid to apprentices and trainee members of the team, so the number may surge by as much as 10% in the next year. This wage inflation could offer the added income that individuals need to at least partly combat the rising costs of living.

Things to consider

 Individuals across the country are grappling with unprecedented societal changes, with wages struggling to keep up with the soaring costs. Dentistry has certainly taken its fair share of hits in the past couple of years, following the pandemic and now the surge in living costs, inciting professionals to throw the towel in. However, there may be rising competition as a result of this, with employers having to take steps in order to gain and retain their most valuable staff members.

If you’re thinking about making a change in your career, or your concerned about how these changes may affect you, the team at Dental Elite are experts in finding roles that suit professional’s individual needs and requirements. They also possess comprehensive knowledge regarding the dental market, and are happy to give advice and guidance to those who need it.

[i] Stewart, I. and Bolton, P. (2022). Domestic energy prices. [online] House of Commons Library. Available at: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9491/ [Accessed 3 May 2022].

[ii] Sandercock, H. (2022). UK cost of living crisis: this is how much food prices have risen amid ‘big squeeze’. [online] www.nationalworld.com. Available at: https://www.nationalworld.com/lifestyle/food-and-drink/inflation-uk-how-much-have-food-prices-gone-up-amid-2022-cost-of-living-crisis-will-they-continue-to-rise-3536980  [Accessed 3 May 2022].

[iii] GOV.UK. (2022b). Spring Statement 2022 (HTML). [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/spring-statement-2022-documents/spring-statement-2022-html [Accessed 3 May 2022].

[iv] Dental Elite Goodwill & Benchmarking report