Trusts will now have to conform to minimum standards to ensure nurses are not left on sick pay unnecessarily, or with no pay while still unfit for work.
Staff with more than five years’ service will receive half pay if their sick pay entitlement is exhausted before a final review meeting for long-term absence has taken place.
Staff with fewer than five years’ service will receive half pay at 12 months from start of absence if their sick pay entitlement is exhaused and a final review has not taken place.
There are also other measures to encourage employers to rehabilitate staff to help them return to work. For example, staff who are ill or injured will be encouraged to stay on in alternative roles if possible.
Additionally, a new two-tier ill-health retirement system will mean that those who will not be able to work at all receive more money than those deemed likely to be able to find work elsewhere.
NHS Employers, representing NHS trusts in England, has agreed the arrangements with representatives of unions.
Richard Parker, staff-side chairperson of the ill-health retirement review, said: ‘If you are a nurse off sick, your employer is now expected to do certain things to get you back to work. If you are in a zero-pay situation, your employer has to do a final review, otherwise they have to extend your sick pay.’
Jeremy Orr, ill-health review project manager for NHS Employers, said the goal of the scheme was to keep more in work as the health service workforce became older.
‘If we don’t curb the number of ill-health retirements in the long term, it will put financial pressure on the pension scheme and contribution levels will have to go up for staff,’
The ill-health changes have been introduced alongside new NHS pension arrangements, which also came into effect at the start of April, and will mean employees will retire at 65.