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'Unsocial hours payments attack will be challenged', say nurses


Nurses have voted to challenge the government on any attempt it makes to scrap or undermine unsocial hours payments, following a lively debate at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference.

Concerns have been growing that the government is gearing up to attack remuneration arrangments for work done by health professionals after normal work hours and at weekends, in order to make it affordable to make the NHS a “truly seven day service”.

“These [unsocial] hours need to be compensated. Nurses do not live to work. They work to live”

Richard Beauchamp

The previous coalition asked the NHS Pay Review Body to look into “affordable out of hours working arrangements”, as part of wider plans to reform Agenda for Change.

In its submission to the body earlier this year, the Department of Health suggested several options for reducing unsocial hours payments in a bid to help fund “seven day services”, which would ensure affordable care at the weekends and in evenings.

But in a motion debate today RCN members spoke of the substantial contribution that such payments made to their salaries and the significant loss of earnings they would experience if they were removed or reduced.



That this meeting of RCN Congress should urge Council to challenge any proposal by the UK Government to scrap or undermine unsocial hours payments


One speaker – retired RCN representative Dougie Lockheart – claimed he knew of registrants who had not accepted band 7 promotions due to the weekday working patterns required for the job that would mean the loss of unsocial hours payments.

Nurses also pointed to the health problems associated with working unsocial, and often long, hours, which they said warranted additional pay as compensation.

“[There are] health concerns that come from working those unsocial hours – that is why we get paid them and need them”

Kathy Doughty

Union members warned that if the government diluted unsocial hours payments, it could also spark a backlash from the general public who they claimed would see it as a signal the nursing profession was being devalued.

Proposing the motion, Richard Beauchamp from the RCN’s Essex branch noted recent surveys which found many nurses would refuse to work unsocial hours if the payments were decreased or withdrawn.

He said: “If the government must save money in various ways that it is looking to do, including quite legitimately to reduce expenditure on agencies, fine. But don’t let them also scrap unsocial working hours [pay].

“24/7 healthcare can be provided where unsocial hour working is rewarded with pensionable enhancements. These hours need to be compensated. Nurses do not live to work. They work to live,” he added.

“This is an attack on the loyal and faithful nursing staff that strive to care for their patients”

Graham Revie

“This is an attack on the loyal and faithful nursing staff that strive to care for their patients,” said Graham Revie, from the RCN Stewards Commitee.

He warned the government: “Don’t dare send a message that you don’t value us because the public will send a message back.”

Nikki Williams, from the union’s North West London branch, described the payments as “modest,” but said that they make the difference for many nurses between “surviving , or having a life”.

Meanwhile, Kathy Doughty from the RCN’s Brighton branch, said: “I have heard nobody talk about the health concerns that come from working those unscial hours – that is why we get paid them and need them.”

The motion to challenge any government proposal to scrap or undermine unsocial hours payments was carried overwhelmingly, with 99.58% in favour.


Voting results

  • For – 99.58% (476)
  • Against – 0.42% (2)
  • Abstain – 0% (2)

Readers' comments (25)

  • To abolish or reduce unsocial hours pay would be a total disgrace and would see many more nurses leave the sector. whilst it is reported widely in the private sector that wages have risen substantialy, nurses have been insulted at a measly 1% rise that comes nowhere near the rise in the cost of living. Governments have continually depended on the good will of nurses, the message is "You can only grind people down for so long"

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  • HCSW

    "truly seven day service”. Yes!! Absolutely!! But 9-5 only.

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  • Unsocial hours payments are an anachronism and have reduced considerably or gone in most sectors of the economy (including private sector health services). Why should NHS staff be immune from that societal change? We should be paid for our skills, not the time of day that we are using them, and we should be basing our arguments for better pay on incentivising excellence and productivity (because we should be fairly rewarded for the things that make a difference to our patients and the population).
    Good old RCN, you can depend on it to be behind the curve on just about any subject.

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  • In this utopian future of 24/7 hospitals, will the doctors demand "unsocial hours" rates? If so, then so should the nurses. Simple.

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  • Oh ffs

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  • Anonymous | 25-Jun-2015 7:44 pm

    Useful comment - thank you for your contribution.

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  • Anon 6.09pm
    Take it you work in clinics or a private home and are somehow jealous. Name me one industry where people get the same pay working nights or weekends as those on weekdays, and if you can, why the delight in joining them?
    I for one wouldn't work another night, bank holiday, Christmas or weekend shift again if I was paid the same as working 9-5 Monday to Friday.
    If the Government can afford to drop the 45% tax bracket, then it can afford to pay unsociable hours.

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  • First Agenda for change takes away £600 per year psyciatric lead. Then the trust changes our hours so no after 8 payments...starting eatly isnt unsocial appatently!!! Are we really going to see 24 hour service cant see that other disciplines are debating changing yet !! At this rate the nhs plans to save money from nurses and not other professionals makes me tjink nurses will be managed under the volunteering secto by tne time I retire !!!!!!

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  • john warwick

    if it truly is a 24-7 era how many hospital Executives will work ? none I only worked unsocialabe hours because there where never any nosy bosses making me look bad to justify their lofty position during nights or weekend , so its the same BS

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  • Laha78

    I'm sorry but as a nurse I do provide a 24/7 service and have done for the best part of 20 years!
    I've worked nights, bank holidays, christmases and new years and in doing so have missed many family gatherings not to mention compromising family life to a large extent and the ONLY small compensation we all receive is that we're slightly better paid! And now that's being taken away?!?! I'll tell you what Mr Cameron, how about you and some of your over paid MP's try walking a WEEK in a nurse's shoes and see how you feel by the end of it! Exhausted, both physically and mentally and the possibility of not seeing your children for 3 days because you're on for three 12-14 hour shifts in a row may just make you see why our unsocial hours are justified!!!!!!!!
    This government disgusts me!

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