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Sign-on bonuses have proved popular among assisted living operators in attracting new employees during the pandemic, but changes to benefits eligibility and merit increases have not been, according to a new report published by Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service.

The “2021-2022 Assisted Living Salary & Benefits Report” again covers information on how COVID-19 affected assisted living communities. 

Sign-on bonuses were used by 62.7% of respondents to attract new employees. Reported average sign-on bonuses varied by position at assisted living communities — $8,667 for directors of nursing, $2,855 for registered nurses, $2,118 for licensed practical nurses, $1,419 for certified nursing assistants, $1,040 for resident assistants and $917 for kitchen staff.

When it came to employee benefits, however, an overwhelming majority (98.9%) of participants indicated that they did not change benefits eligibility policies, nor did they reduce or cut back employee benefits (98%).

A majority (79.1%) of respondents said they did not implement merit pay, whereas 20.9% did make such adjustments. But 40.3% of participating communities indicated that they made pay adjustments for key employees working with COVID-positive residents, compared with 59.7% who reported making no adjustments. Appreciation / hazard pay and one-time bonuses were the types most frequently used.

And only 40.1% of survey respondents reported implementing changes to their vacation / paid time off policies, compared with 59.5% that made no such changes. 

Although assisted living communities joined other long-term care settings in struggling to fill positions, most participating communities (72.5%) reported no change in adjusted overtime amounts for certain employees, compared with 27.5% that reported increasing overtime amounts. 

Although 78% of responding communities said they did not reduce hours for any employee groups, the 22% that did report reduced hours said they approach primarily was used for dining staff. Only 43.2% reported increasing hours for certain employee groups — namely RNs, LPNs, CNAs and administrative staff — whereas 56.8% reported not increasing work hours.

Most operators (79.1%) said they did not experience layoffs during the pandemic, compared with 20.9% that did report layoffs. And although 8.1% reported hiring freezes during the pandemic, 91.9% did not freeze hiring.  

The report, conducted with LeadingAge and supported by the National Center for Assisted Living, includes COVID-19 impact data from 1,064 assisted living communities — 96.25% of the 1,105 participants of the 24th annual survey.

The report, which also covers compensation for 20 management and 30 non-management positions, is available for purchase at the HCS website.