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AfC is sexist on pay, says lawyer

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A report showing that nurses have received lower pay rises than some other staff under AfC could fuel a legal claim that it is sexist.

Nurses have seen their pay increase by 18% on average since the AfC system was introduced in 2003.

However, this rise is below that awarded to many other staff groups, according to a report published last week by the National Audit Office.

The report said there had been an average rise in pay of around 33% for unqualified support staff. Only scientific, therapeutic and technical staff had a smaller wage increase than nurses, of around 17%.

Stefan Cross, a no-win, no-fee lawyer who is challenging AfC in the courts under sex discrimination laws, said the figures backed his assertion that mainly male maintenance and works staff had benefited from AfC through being placed in higher pay bands during the initial job evaluation process.

‘They got put on a higher grade with a recruitment and retention bonus added to it,’ he told Nursing Times.

Mr Cross is attempting to bring a test case – delayed since the autumn – against Northumberland Healthcare NHS Trust over the claim, as revealed by Nursing Times.

If the case is successful, it could open the door to 13,700 similar compensation claims, of which half are expected to be brought by nursing staff.

However, the unions that helped draw up the system with the NHS have defended AfC, saying it had improved patient care and secured recruitment and retention benefits.

Mike Jackson, Unison senior national officer, said: ‘It has been instrumental in cutting waiting lists to 18 weeks, patient satisfaction is at a high level and there has been a massive reduction in staff turnover.

‘Support staff appear to have done better but, in many cases, they were underpaid.’

Only one in ten nurses on the NMC register is male – a figure that has remained static for at least four years.

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