If I have a long break from work through suspension, maternity leave or long-term sick leave, what happens to my unsocial hours payments? Under AfC, am I paid for the unsocial hours I would have worked and does my grading remain unchanged?
You are right. If you are on sick leave - whether it is prolonged or not - or annual leave, you will still receive whatever pay you are entitled to and that would include an element of unsocial hours. The calculation would be made on the basis of the pattern of unsocial hours you worked before the break, probably over a three-month period.
If you are suspended on full pay, then the same would apply and your payments should not be affected. You should not suffer any detriment while on suspension as it is not meant to be judgemental.
A person can be suspended for many reasons - you might not be well, or you might be suspended to protect the health of other people. Even in the case of a suspension due to a complaint made against you, while you await an investigation to be carried out, you should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
To update you on unsocial hours, this has been a long-standing and as yet unresolved problem with the Agenda for Change agreement. It has been called the 'final piece of the jigsaw? to provide a fully harmonised AfC system that is equal-pay proof. An alternative system for calculating it was tried at the AfC early implementer sites and proved to be unpopular so nurses are still paid under the same system that existed before AfC. Since then, three different models have been tested on real historical payroll data that exists from various trusts around the country.
The resulting data is currently being collected to find out what the overall cost of these new models is and then unions plan to consult with their members before deciding on the best way forward. A pilot is then likely to take place before a new system is adopted everywhere. A start date for a new unsocial hours system has been delayed a few times, but latest predictions are for it to begin in April of next year (2007).
As for your grading, it has to remain the same while you are away as long as you come back to the same job.