Nursing Times' ongoing series on Agenda for Change answers your questions about the new pay system for NHS staff.
I understand that under AfC, nurses will receive more annual leave. I work full-time on a medical ward - there are always staff shortages and I hardly ever find the time to use up the annual leave I've got. Why did they decide to increase annual leave rather than increase our pay as much as possible?
The new pay system does indeed offer a better annual leave entitlement for nurses. On average, a nurse should notice they have got several annual leave days more than before. The good news is that this leave will grow the longer you are working in the NHS.
Prior to Agenda for Change, holidays for nurses were usually at least 25 days a year, plus two statutory days, but that could vary from trust to trust and some nurses did better than others over the extra days. Nursing auxiliaries often started on just 20 days annual leave.
One of the foundations of AfC is to be fair and equitable so everyone has the same terms and conditions. That includes the new annual leave system which says that all staff will get 27 days of annual leave plus eight public holidays. This jumps to 29 annual leave days after five years service and 33 days after 10 years service (plus the eight public holidays). The statutory days have now effectively been incorporated into the overall annual leave count.
The unions argue that improving annual leave was just one positive aspect of the new pay system and better pay was not sacrificed for the annual leave agreement. They wanted to strike a balance between improving pay and better working lives for staff and one way of doing that was to by guaranteeing nurses good annual leave entitlement.
If you find you are struggling to take your holidays, remember that - just the same as with the old Whitley system - you are still entitled to carry over five days of leave that you were unable to take in the previous year, subject to agreement with your employer. The only change under AfC is that such a situation can be altered by local agreement, so watch out for any permanent change being re-negotiated by your employer that might remove your right to carrying over the five days.
There is also an important point here that you should never be made to feel guilty at taking your entitled annual leave. If you are, you should talk to your HR department.
VOL: 102, ISSUE: 7, PAGE NO: 65