Why One Senior Living Operator Is Giving Its Employees Free Care

The caregiver crisis is looming, and most senior living providers are stepping up their game when it comes to recruiting and retainment. But one operator has taken their incentive program to keep and attract employees even further by offering free senior living care to those who have stayed with the company for decades.

English Meadows Senior Living Communities, based in New River Valley, Virginia, designed a new benefits package for its employees in 2017, and included covering the cost of future senior living needs. In other words, longtime employees will be eligible to live in the English Meadows community where they worked for free, when the time comes.

“We really wanted to be aggressive,” Mike Williams, co-owner and CEO, said of why the company boosted its incentives package for employees. “We wanted to retain the people that we already have and attract some people who really wanted long-term stability.”


Free Care for Long-Term Service

The new benefit promises free senior living to English Meadows employees at the campus where they currently work, based on the number of years they end up working there. For instance, an employee who reaches 20 years of service will receive one year of free care. After 30 years of services, they get 2 years of free care; and after 40 years of service, employees receive 3 years of free care.



Already, nine employees are qualified for some level of free care across English Meadows’ three campuses, which offer assisted living and some independent living. Over the next few years, roughly 25 of English Meadows’ employees could become eligible for this unique benefit.

Also included in the revamped benefits package is free health insurance for employees who have been with the company for three years or more, free disability, maternity pay options and a matching 401(k) program. These benefits extend to both full-time and hourly employees, according to Williams.

The fact that English Meadows already has several employees who are eligible for free care might show the company is on to something when it comes to reducing turnover. The operator, which has about 162 employees and is licensed for 400 residents, acquired a 100-year community in 2008, including its long-remaining staff.

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Reducing Turnover, Boosting Recruitment

With so many incentives to attract and keep employees, English Meadows will end up absorbing the cost. And Williams recognizes not all senior living providers may be able to provide such a robust benefits package, particularly larger businesses.

“It’s definitely not going to be cheap,” he said. “But we run a pretty lean model. We’re able to charge our residents less than most of our competitors. We don’t have a crazy amount of corporate overheard. We’re able to have more funds to do it.”

However, compared to the high turnover rate across the industry and the coming shortage of caregivers ahead, its a worthwhile investment to Williams.

“When you add up all the recruiting costs of finding new employees and team members, it’s pretty costly to keep firing and training someone that might end up leaving after a couple months,” Williams said. “We’re trying to transfer the costs of recruiting to retention.”

Compared to industry standards, the offering may be unusual, but it could prove to pay off in the long run, as most major senior living providers agree that turnover will likely remain one of the industry’s biggest challenges.

Written by Amy Baxter

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