Trusts have been told that nurses who leave night shifts early to join the strike, which kicks in at midnight tomorrow, could forfeit their wage for that entire shift.
Advice issued by Beachcroft solicitors partner Guy Bredenkamp to human resources directors said trusts did not have to pay staff for shifts that overlapped with the strike day and were only partly worked.
They should notify staff in advance that they were taking this approach, he said during a web seminar hosted last week by NHS Employers, which represents trusts.
Written guidance released by NHS Employers last Thursday added: “In principle employers are entitled to inform all night shift staff that they will not accept, or pay for, part-shifts: staff should either work a full shift or not attend work at all.”
NHS trusts are also being told they are under no obligation to pay staff unable to work because their child’s school has closed for the day due to striking teachers. Staff should instead be urged to plan alternative childcare arrangements well in advance, NHS Employers said.
In addition, anyone who calls in sick on the strike day will be expected to provide a doctor’s note and attend a “return to work” interview.
The 24-hour industrial action, expected to involve around three million public sector workers, is taking place after talks between unions and ministers on pensions stalled.
Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said last Thursday there was “no more money on the table” to drop proposals that would see the final salary pension scrapped, contributions increased and the retirement age raised to 68.
The government has offered to make anyone due to retire within the next 10 years immune from some of the changes, but unions say this is not enough. Nursing Times understands unions are keen to discuss whether this immunity could be “tapered” to protect staff in their late 40s.
Members of Unison, Unite and the GMB are taking part in the strike. The Royal College of Nursing announced last week it would meet on 10 January to discuss whether to take action as well.