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Trust ends increment pay freeze over sick leave

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A second hospital trust in the north west has ripped up a sickness absence policy under which nurses were withheld pay increments, following a landmark legal ruling, Nursing Times has learnt.  

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust had held back 427 increments in 2011-12, the highest number by a trust last year. In the majority of cases increments were withheld due to poor attendance rates.

Under the trust’s sickness absence policy, staff could have their next increment rise frozen after three spells of absence in six months, 10 days absence in 12 months and four weeks continuous absence.

However, the trust has told Nursing Times that it has now reversed its previous decision. It follows a tribunal ruling against Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Manchester had imposed similar rules whereby employees who were off sick four or more times a year, or for 18 or more days in total, would lose that year’s increment. It said it was withdrawing its sickness absence policy “with immediate effect” in February.

In a message sent to staff on 4 April, managers at Morecambe Bay said: “All staff who have had their increment deferred in 2011-12 will have their increment reinstated and will receive their back pay as soon as possible – we are aiming for this to take place in May.”

It is the same trust where unions said earlier this year that staff had been pushed to “breaking point”. Three separate independent reviews have reported a catalogue of governance and leadership failures at the trust.

A further trust in the region, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, told Nursing Times it was reviewing its pay policy in light of the Manchester ruling.

A trust spokesman said: “Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust has a pay progression policy which has been incorporated into contracts for new staff and for voluntary contract changes. The policy also applies to all staff on band 7 and above.

“The policy considers conduct, performance, a satisfactory appraisal, completion of mandatory training and attendance,” he said.

“Naturally, we will review our policy in light of the Central Manchester tribunal decision but we are not freezing our policy.” 

The majority of trusts handed out increments – worth 2.8% of pay on average – to every member of staff on the Agenda for Change pay framework last year. However, freedom of Information requests by Nursing Times reveal that 18 trusts including Morecambe Bay held them back:

Regional director for the Royal College of Nursing in the North West Steve Flanagan said: “We are pleased that the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has decided to adopt a sensible approach to this matter, and reverse its earlier position on incremental pay.

“At a time when the trust is quite rightly focusing on patient care, it can ill-afford to engage in a battle with its staff.”


Trusts that withheld increments in 2011-12
Barnet and Chase Farm Hospital Trust
Bedford Hospital Trust
City Hospitals Sunderland Foundation Trust
County Durham and Darlington Trust
Derby Hospitals Foundation Trust
East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust
Harrogate and District Foundation Trust
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust
Mid Cheshire Hospitals Foundation Trust
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust
Salford Royal Foundation Trust
Salisbury Foundation Trust
Tameside Hospital Foundation Trust
Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust
University Hospital of North Staffordshire Trust
University Hospital of South Manchester Foundation Trust
York Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust
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