Updated June 21, 2022
As the demand for caregivers in Canada keeps increasing, more healthcare professionals such as personal support workers (PSW) join the workforce across the country. Most of them are employed by long-term care and nursing homes, at least in Ontario; while others work for hospitals, home care agencies, or independently. And although they usually perform fairly similar tasks, they are not paid equally. PSW salaries vary depending on factors like employers, experience, and location.
In this article, Caring Support wants to provide caregivers with information about multiple variables they need to consider before accepting a job offer, including the cost of living in their communities, family expenses, benefits, and more. We believe PSWs should be able to negotiate a living wage that allows them to afford a decent lifestyle and helps them to provide the best caregiving service to their clients and patients.
On average, in Ontario, caregivers like PSWs are paid around $18 as a starting wage, depending on where they work. Those who provide their services to long-term care homes operated by the municipalities in the province are usually paid more.
Since October of 2020, thousands of PSWs across the province were benefited from a temporary pay boost created by the local government to support them as Ontario battled Covid-19. However, the benefit is scheduled to conclude by the end of March 2022, putting thousands of caregivers back where they were last year financially, which for many of them means earning a salary that falls below their living wage.
Job offers are to be considered carefully. After all, every job you take in your chosen professional field will not only provide you with a salary to cover your expenses but will also forever be a chapter on your work history. No matter how precarious your circumstances may be at the moment, it is always better to reject an offer than to hand a letter of resignation two weeks in.
Caregiving professionals are no exception. Considering the amount of commitment, hard work, and long hours required to perform any job in the healthcare sector, there are three main factors PSWs and every other caregiver should consider before leaping to a new employment situation.
On top of considering if a job is paying what your skills and experience are really worth (you can get an estimate by comparing average salaries within your industry, positions, locations, and companies); you need to assess the cost of living in your city or town to determine if you can afford to accept it or not.
The cost of living is the average price residents of a certain area usually pay for a list of basic necessities such as housing, food, utilities, transportation, and taxes. Calculating this cost is essential to make decisions like which area to move to if you will rent or buy a home, if you can afford to drive a car or use public transportation instead, the type of stores or markets you will get your groceries from, etc. Additionally, certain areas are subject to higher taxes than others, and not all provinces apply taxes to the same items.
You should also consider variables like:
Does the job offer pay leave? What tools will the company provide you with? (smartphone, computer, etc.) Do they offer performance incentives? Remember that benefits vary from company to company, so make sure you get it all in writing with your job offer before you sign.
Even though many people use these terms interchangeably, expenses are not the same as the cost of living. Expenses refer to your particular circumstances and how much money you spend because of them. For instance, gas prices can remain stable in your area (cost of living), but if you can’t afford to have a long commute to your workplace, then certain job locations may not be for you (personal expenses due to distance, gas, car maintenance, etc.) Other examples of expenses include rent or mortgage payments, the number of members in your family, your diet, clothing style, and other variables, depending on your particular lifestyle.
To be able to understand how much money you will be able to take home, you need to know the difference between net pay and gross pay (or net income vs whole income, which are the same.) "Net" and "gross" are terms that will apply to you regardless of the form of payment (salary or hourly wages), so you need to familiarize yourself with both concepts to avoid misunderstandings.
In both cases, "net" refers to the actual amount that will reach your pocket after certain deductions are made on your behalf, while "gross" refers to the full amount of money stated in your contract before any deductions. This explains why your net pay, or net income, will always be lower than your gross pay or income. In Canada, the usual deductions applied to workers include taxes, Employment Insurance (EI), Canadian pension plan (CPP), and in some cases, health insurance.
Our last recommendation when assessing the cost of living is to use a cost of living calculator if you're still not sure about a potential job due to salary concerns. Cost of living calculators work by calculating the information you submit, like wagers or yearly salary and location (for tax calculation purposes) and determining how much more you would need to maintain the same standard of living in the indicated location using current prices and other public information. You can find these calculation tools online. They are easy to use and usually pretty accurate.
Whatever job you chose, you need to assess the cost of living to make sure your wages will be enough to cover your basic personal expenses where you live, as well as some of your additional expenses. These extras are things that you can live without, but are almost essential, like internet service, smartphones, and personal care items. Furthermore, there are expenses like entertainment and vacations that are not essential but are part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle, and if you can afford them, you shouldn't have to avoid them.
Once you have made your evaluation of a PSW job offer and determined that, unfortunately, it is not a good match to your current situation due to the cost of living in your area, personal expenses, and lack of benefits, it is time to have a talk with the company. This conversation doesn’t have to be a rejection right away, instead, you can ask for a meeting to negotiate an appropriate living wage for yourself.
Asking for a living wage when a job offer you were very excited about falls short of what you were expecting doesn’t have to be as intimidating as you think. In fact, if you prepare well, you might get what you deserve, which is a salary that allows you to make a decent living for yourself and your family.
These recommendations also work if you have been employed with a company for a while and have reached the point where a cost-of-living adjustment is necessary for you to maintain a decent standard of living. You can do that by following these steps:
What do you think of this topic? Have you considered asking your employer for a living wage? If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. We’re here to help!
Also, remember that if you or someone you know is a PSW or other healthcare worker in any way, you can sign up to Caring Support to start developing your career with the numerous employment opportunities we have available. Create your free account today.
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