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NHS Pay Progression

New pay progression arrangements came into effect for NHS Agenda for Change staff in England on 1 April 2021.

Pay step meeting advice and guidance

From April 2021, NHS Agenda for Change staff in England will need to meet national pay progression standards in order to move up their pay band. Any cost of living pay awards will be paid automatically.

Staff who took up new jobs or promotions on or after 1 April 2019 have been covered by these arrangements since that date.

What are the standards to qualify for pay step progression?

The national standards for pay progression are: 

1. You have had a successful appraisal in the last 12 months.
2. You are not in a formal capability process.
3. There is no formal disciplinary sanction live on your employment record.
4. You have completed all required statutory and/or mandatory training.
5. If you are a line manager – you have completed all the appraisals for all your staff as required.

How does it work?

A few weeks before you are eligible to move up to the next point on your pay band, now known as pay steps, your manager will arrange to meet with you to confirm that you meet the required standards. This is called your pay step meeting. If you meet the standards, they will instruct payroll to activate your pay step increase.  If you do not meet the standards, your line manager should discuss with you the standards that have not been met and consider any mitigating factors. 

They should also advise you of your right to contest any decision using the locally agreed procedure. 

What if I don’t meet the standards?

If you don’t meet the standards your pay step will be deferred until you do. There are special rules for people on authorised absence such as sick leave or maternity/parental leave. However, your pay step must not be deferred if it’s not your fault that you haven’t met the national standards. For example, if you weren’t able to attend your mandatory training due to staffing shortages or your appraisal didn’t take place because your manager cancelled it..

If you do not meet the national standards, your line manager should advise you of the right to contest any decision, using the local agreed procedure.  

Pay step meeting

Although appraisals take place annually and should continue to do so, pay step meetings are not yearly and occur every 2, 3, or 5 years depending on band.  For example, a newly qualified Band 5 nurse will be placed at the bottom of the incremental scale, their pay step meeting will take place 2 years after their appointment (anniversary of date commenced role) to take them to the mid point of the band and then a further 2 years later for their next pay step. This will be their last pay step meeting as they will be at the top of their band.

If your pay step is delayed due to one or more of the national standards not being met, your line manager should arrange a further pay step meeting at an appropriate time e.g. before the end of any reasons for the deferral coming to an end.  This could be once training has been completed or at the end of and sanction or capability plan.

Capability or a disciplinary sanction, due to ill-health, should not prevent you receiving your next pay step. 

Absence due to maternity, paternity or long-term sickness should not prevent a pay step point and should be automatically applied.

If you feel you have been unfairly treated or wish to appeal your pay step decision contact your local RCN representative or RCN Direct to discuss further.

Preparing for your meeting

Your line-manager should organise meeting with you before your next pay step is due. This needs to be timed so as to meet payroll deadlines because your line manager will need to authorise your pay step in time for it to be effective at the right time.

Familiarise yourself with local appraisal policies. 

Familiarise yourself with the appraisal documents and templates.

Review your last appraisal and ensure you have achieved what was agreed.

If goals have yet to be achieved this needs to be addressed in good time, with your line-manager, to resolve before your pay step meeting.

After the meeting make sure you agree to the content of any documents you are expected to sign. It should be an accurate reflection of what was discussed and agreed between you and your line-manager.

If your pay step is deferred, you  have a right to challenge if you feel you have been unfairly treated.

How can the RCN help? 

RCN representatives will be working with your employer to ensure that organisational policies and procedures are in place to make sure the new system operates as it should. They will also be ensuring that pay step outcomes are reported on and monitored at Partnership Forum/JNC meetings and that action is taken to address unfair disadvantage or discrimination. 

Your RCN steward can help you if your pay step is deferred and you want to challenge the decision. 

Your RCN learning representative will be able to help you prepare for your annual appraisal and can help, alongside your RCN safety representative, with any difficulties you have accessing your statutory and/or mandatory training. They can also help you consider any other development needs you might have. 

Nationally the RCN will be working in partnership with other unions and NHS employers to monitor the implementation of the new arrangements and to undertake a full equality analysis of the process.