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Time may be called on current unsocial hours cut-offs


Nurses may in future only get premium pay rates for working after 10pm and could lose them altogether for shifts on Saturdays, under proposals being looked at by ministers.

The government is to look into reducing the times and days that unsocial hours pay can be applied, following a report by advisors on how to expand seven-day services, Nursing Times understands.

“The NHS Pay Review Body observed that premium pay rates may not be out of line with comparator industries”

Jeremy Hunt

The NHS Pay Review Body said last week there was a case for adjustments such as moving back the eligible unsocial hours pay time from 8pm to 10pm. It also noted that employers in other industries did not provide more money for working on Saturdays.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt subsequently highlighted both of the review body’s suggestions in a written statement to parliament.

A Department of Health spokeswoman later confirmed to Nursing Times that these were areas of particular interest ahead of future negotiations with unions on pay.

The suggestion was included in a much-anticipated report from the independent pay review body, which was published last Thursday.

The previous coalition asked it last September to look into “affordable out of hours working arrangements”, as part of wider plans to reform Agenda for Change.

The move sparked concerns at the time about an imminent attack on unsocial hours pay, which have now grown in intensity after the Conservatives made introducing a “truly seven-day service” in the NHS one of their flagship election policies.

In his ministerial statement last week, Mr Hunt said: “The NHS Pay Review Body observed that premium pay rates may not be out of line with comparator industries, but that there is a case for some adjustment to unsocial hours pay, for example, extending plain time working further into the evenings – from 7/8pm currently to 10pm – and noted the move, in some sectors, to plain time working on Saturdays.”

However, the review body’s core recommendation was that reform of unsocial hours pay should only occur alongside a wider review of the Agenda for Change contract – a suggestion welcomed by union representatives hoping to strengthen their hand when trying to gain improvements in other areas, such as increased rates for being on-call, in return for giving ground on unsocial hours.

If out-of-hours remuneration were altered in isolation, it could “risk morale and motivation, damage employee relations, exacerbate existing [staff] shortages, and, in particular, risk the good will of staff already working across seven days”, said the review body.

Negotiations around Agenda for Change are already taking place, but a formal proposal on unsocial hours pay is yet to be put forward by the government and employers.

“We are pleased the review body has recognised the difficulties of cutting unsocial hours and nailed the fact that unsocial hours pay itself is not a barrier to seven-day services”

Christina McAnea

The NHS Employers organisation has estimated savings of £290m – or 0.8% of the of the Agenda for Change pay bill – could be achieved if unsocial hours payments were no longer applied to early evenings and Saturdays.

In its report, the review body noted that NHS Employers and the DH had claimed the cost of unsocial hours payments was a barrier to seven-day services. But it concluded extra investment in resources such as staff would cause more affordability problems.

Unison head of heath Christina McAnea said that, despite the review body warning of the risks of major reforms to unsocial hours pay, there was no reason for nurses to be “complacent”.

“We are pleased the review body has recognised the difficulties of cutting unsocial hours and nailed the fact that unsocial hours pay itself is not a barrier to seven-day services. But that won’t stop the government or employers,” she said.

Jon Skewes, Royal College of Midwives director for policy and employment, agreed there was a danger the government would not accept the review body’s recommendations in full.

“We have experience of precisely the opposite that led to the first industrial action by midwives in the union’s history,” he said, referring to last year’s strikes over the government’s refusal to accept pay recommendations.

But, in what could be a warning for nursing unions of tough negotiations ahead, Mr Hunt last week issued an ultimatum to the British Medical Association to negotiate over changes to hospital working hours.

By the end of the parliament, he said he expected the “majority of hospital doctors to be on seven-day contracts”. “Be in no doubt: if we can’t negotiate, we are ready to impose a new contract,” he said in a keynote speech.

A motion was overwhelmingly passed last month at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference to challenge any proposal by the government to “scrap or undermine” unsocial hours payments.

In May, a row developed between Mr Hunt and RCN leaders after a perceived threat of industrial action was seized on by the national media.

The college’s chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter suggested that attacks on unsocial hours and weekend working payments “would be strongly resisted” and that it represented a “red line” for considering industrial action.

It was preceded in April by similar warning from Unison. At its annual healthcare conference in Liverpool, members called for a “vigorous” campaign to be launched against plans to cut unsocial hours pay.

Meanwhile, at the start of January, a petition against changes to unsocial hours payment for nurses and other NHS workers attracted almost 100,000 signatures in only a few days after it was started by a Suffolk nursing assistant.


Readers' comments (7)

  • So another pay cut for nurses on the front line then....

    Ministers get a pay rise but nurses get 1% plus a pay cut for working unsocial hours

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  • "It is noted that empoyees in other industries dont get unsociable hours"?!Which other industries as my friends who are admin workers in offices get unsociable hours pay and they dont have the responsibility of looking after a sick person, have abuse hurled at them when patients are ill or even hold their hand whilst they leave this world its becoming disgraceful how nurses are being treated and i'm only a student nurse! i havent even embarked on my career yet. I know nurses dont do it for the money but it needs to at least cover the costs of living as remember we have to pay for registration, dbs, travelling to work, parking fees before we even start paying out for bills and maybe a luxury after being burnt out/over worked by the nhs - rant over maybe i should of gone with the office job - but unfortunately i want to make a difference to an individuals life at their most vulnerable time...

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  • Makes me laugh how they are so ''interested'' in being in line with other industries who don't pay employees extra for working Saturdays....

    Okay, if you want to be like other industries .. how about start by increasing wages in line with cost of living. Don't charge us for car parking!!! (this is in line with other industries).. most industries supply tea and coffee to their workers and a comfortable place to take break (so we should expect this surely?) many other industries also offer bonuses at Christmas or when an employee has exceeded.. surely this should happen then!? ....other industries also supply benefits such as team building afternoons or all expenses paid lunches (should we expect this too!?) my friends all work in the private sector and these other industries make the NHS workplace look like a complete joke. Oh and none of my friends in other industries pay £120 a year to maintain their job role. Hopefully, they'll scrap that too... then yeah.. maybe we'll be like other industries...

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  • In line with other industries, ok - when it is "knocking off time" - off we go! No? Of course not, because we care, unfortunately the government knows that , it is our Archilles heel!!

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  • I completely agree with Anonymous 20-Jul-2015 10:37pm.
    I am a Nurse working in an 'other' (not private care sector) industry and I have free secure parking, have a dedicated and pleasantly comfortable area for designated mandatory breaks, pay rise in line with inflation and the option to work over seasonal holidays. The pay is not better than the NHS but one is certainly more valued as a professional and accountable Nurse. I was afraid leave the NHS. It is easy to think that the skills of Nurses are not transferable, but they really are: Clinical skills, communication, adaptability and resilience. A Nursing qualification and experience could get you a job doing almost anything you would want to do.

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  • Nurses pay has been cut by the tories with virtually no complaint from nurses themselves or the unions or bodies that represent them. The calculations for car use expenses are now based on an AA formula that the organisation itself says should not be used for this purpose. This has resulted in a significant drop in income. Inflation combined with zero or 1% pay increases has seen our disposable income fall.
    All this implemented by a bunch that have just voted themselves a very nice pay rise. This government is not supportive of the NHS because it is not in keeping with their view that private is best. Undermining pay and conditions is a very simple way of undermining moral and destabilising the service.

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  • The goverment really doing a good job of totally destroying the nhs more nurses will leave ,nurses will go on strike first time ever ,total devastation Mr Hunt should be totally ashamed of himself , all the foreign nurses in our hospital applying for jobs other countries eg Germany ,what is wrong with the he really who he says he is or a foreign spy sent to destroy the nhs

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