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Agenda for Change


This guide for RCN members includes information about AFC pay scales, sick pay, pay on appointment, pay progression, annual leave, overtime and annual leave, maternity entitlements and reckonable service.

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Pay scales

Agenda for Change (AfC) pay scales for 2017/2018 are available on the NHS Employers website. These include annual salary, hourly pay and adjustments for inner/outer London.

AfC pay scales for previous years are available in Annexes 2 and 3 of the AfC handbook.

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Pay on appointment

Your starting pay will depend upon your circumstances – these are described below. For further information read the AfC handbook and your employer’s local pay policy.

We recommend that your starting salary is agreed in writing before you start a new role.

Promotion within the NHS

Pay on promotion should be set either at the minimum of the new pay band or, if this would result in no pay increase, the first pay point in the band which would deliver you an increase in pay (by reference to basic pay plus any recruitment and retention premium, if applicable). See section 6.35 of the AfC handbook.

Appointment to a post in a lower pay band through choice

The AfC handbook does not state how your starting salary should be calculated if you start on a lower pay band through choice.

We believe that you should enter the new band at the point you would have reached if all your NHS service in equivalent, or higher, pay bands had been worked in the lower band.

Moving to another AfC NHS employer

The AfC handbook does not state how your starting pay is calculated should you have previous NHS service.

We believe that if appointed to a new post in the same pay band you should usually enter the band at the same point you were on with your previous employer (if there is no break in service).

When this happens, it is common practice for staff to be paid on the minimum of the band until confirmation of previous salary (such as a copy of the last payslip or and contract) has been received from the former NHS employer. Once this confirmation has been received, any necessary adjustment should be backdated to your start date with the new employer

Staff with a break in NHS employment

The AfC handbook does not state how you should have your starting pay calculated if you have had a break in NHS employment.

Under local policy, management and Human Resources (HR) are likely to have the discretion to take into account previous NHS service. Generally, there would be no obligation to pay new starters with previous NHS service higher than the bottom of the pay band, unless the employer's policy explicitly states this must be taken into account.

Staff without previous NHS employment

Staff without previous NHS employment would normally be appointed to receive the minimum of the pay band. However NHS employers do have the discretion to take into consideration previous experience that may be relevant to NHS employment.

Temporary movement into a higher band (acting-up)

Under AfC individuals may be moved into a higher pay band where it is necessary to fill a post on a temporary basis when a vacancy is unfilled (but being advertised), or the post is being held open for someone who is due to return - for example from maternity leave or long term sick leave.

Your pay should be set either at the minimum of the new pay band or, if this would result in no pay increase, at the first pay point in the band which would deliver an increase in pay. In circumstances where you are not required to carry out the full responsibilities of the post, pay will be determined by job evaluation. See sections 6.31 and 6.32 and/or section 6 6.18 to 6.20 of the handbook for staff in England and Wales. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, see sections 6.32 to 6.34.

Where temporary movement into a higher pay band results in only one extra pay point your incremental date remains the same. Where temporary movement results in more than one extra pay point your incremental date for the period of the temporary movement becomes the date the movement began (section 6.34).

If you are being asked to work in a higher banded post for any period, you should only do so where payment of the higher band is agreed in advance. If you are currently working in a higher banded post and are not being paid accordingly, you should discuss this with your manager and contact us.

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Incremental pay progression

Sections 1 and 6 of the AfC handbook set out in more detail how pay and career progression within the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) performance systems work. Annex 23 sets out the principles and guidance which will underpin local pay progression policies in England and Wales.        

Increments are conditional on meeting local standards 

Annex 23 of AfC states that incremental pay progression will be conditional upon you demonstrating that you have the requisite knowledge and skills/competencies for the role and that you have demonstrated the required level of performance and delivery.                             

Provided the appropriate standard of performance has been achieved during the review period, you will progress from pay point to pay point on an annual basis. For bands two to seven this will apply for the first five consolidated points of the band. For bands eight and nine this will apply for the first four consolidated points of the band (see Annex 3).

Frequency and timing of annual appraisals is important. KSF guidance states that employers should hold appraisals no later than three months prior to the individual’s incremental date. This would link performance and incremental pay progression and allow you time to prepare for the appraisal. You should also check your employer's written polices for specific detail of the process to be followed at your workplace.

If there are concerns 

You should be formally told the reasons for any deferral of your increment. Pay progression cannot be deferred unless there has been prior discussion, reasons have been clearly identified and documented, and the standards or levels yet to be achieved have been clarified. 

An action plan with clear objectives and review dates should be agreed by you and your line manager. You should then be given the opportunity to achieve the necessary development before a final decision is made. Pay progression can be withheld if 'significant weaknesses in performance' have not been resolved despite opportunities for development. The employer can also (where appropriate) manage performance issues under local capability and/or disciplinary policies.

For more information on managing performance please see our advice on capability.   

Transparency and fairness 

While you need to demonstrate the application of knowledge, skills and competence in your role, your employer is also required to have an agreed and fair appraisal system in place. 

Employers’ appraisal, development and review systems should be transparent, and applied consistently and objectively to avoid any unfair treatment of staff protected under the Equality Act 2010. Appraisals should be evidence based and not based on bias, personalities or subjective views. Employers should also consider any 'reasonable adjustments' for those protected under the Equality Act 2010 and decisions made on a case by case basis.                              

Incremental progression policies and systems should be consistent with NHS principles and developed in partnership with staff side and trade unions. Managers should also be mindful of factors that are outside the control of the individual. Furthermore, if you have raised concerns about standards of care or patient safety this should not form part of a decision to defer.

Your employer should ensure that you have appropriate time to fulfil training and/or development needs related to your current job, and appropriate financial and other support. If an employer fails to do this, they cannot defer pay progression (section 6(a).12).

Local development and review processes must be designed to ensure that part-time staff and those working outside normal hours, have equal access to them (section 6(a).14).

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Sick pay

This page is a summary of the AfC sick pay entitlements. For full information, please see section 14 of the AfC handbook. Please note that there are two sections - one covering England and Wales, and the other covering Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Under AfC you are entitled to the following sick pay:

  • during the first year of service – one month’s full pay and two months half pay
  • during the second year of service – two months full pay and two months half pay
  • during the third year of service – four months full pay and four months half pay
  • during the fourth and fifth years of service – five month's full pay and five months half pay
  • after completing five years of service – six months full pay and six months’ half pay.

Conditions for contractual sick pay

You will not be entitled to an additional day off if sick on a statutory holiday. If you have exhausted sick pay entitlements, your sick pay should be reinstated at half pay, after 12 months of continuous sickness absence, in the following circumstances:

  • staff with more than five years reckonable service:- sick pay will be reinstated if sick pay entitlement is exhausted before a final review meeting for long term absence has taken place
  • staff with less than five years reckonable service:- sick pay will be reinstated if sick pay entitlement is exhausted and a final review does not take place within 12 months of the start of their sickness absence.

Reinstatement of sick pay should continue until the final review meeting has taken place. Reinstatement of sick pay is not retrospective for any period of zero pay in the preceding 12 months of continuous absence.

Aggregating periods of sickness absence

Your employer will take into account all periods of paid sickness absence during the 12 months immediately preceding the first day of a new episode of sickness. This will be deducted from your entitlement when calculating sick pay.

In aggregating periods of absence due to illness no account will be taken of:

  • unpaid sickness absence
  • injuries, diseases or other health conditions sustained or contracted in the discharge of the employee's duties of employment, as defined in Section 22
  • injury resulting from a crime of violence, not sustained on duty but connected with or arising from the employee’s employment, where the injury has been the subject of payment by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) (England, Scotland and Wales) and the Compensation Agency (Northern Ireland)
  • as above, but an injury which has not been the subject of a compensation payment on the grounds that it has not given rise to more than three weeks loss of earnings or was not one for which compensation above the minimum would arise.

Staff who are on sickness absence due to a work related injury, disease or other health condition may also be entitled to payment of an injury allowance as defined in Section 22 of the AfC handbook. To accompany section 22, the NHS Staff Council has published Injury Allowance – a guide for staff.

If sickness absence is because of an injury or disease wholly or mainly attributable to your employment, you may be entitled to claim additional benefits. For further information see accidents at work and personal injury.

Unsocial hours enhancements when on sick leave

Section 14 explains how sick pay for NHS staff is to be calculated in England (from 1 April 2013) and Wales (from 1 January 2015). It states that pay during sickness absence will be paid at basic salary level and will not include any allowance or payments linked to working patterns or additional work commitments. This change will not apply to staff who are paid on AfC spine points one to eight (up to a band three) or to those whose absence is due to work-related injury or disease.

For all other staff, the handbook states:

"Sick pay is calculated on the basis of what the individual would have received had he/she been at work. This would be based on the previous three months at work or any other reference period that may be locally agreed."

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Annual leave

Entitlement

Under section 13, table six of the AfC handbook, you are entitled to the following annual leave:

  • on appointment: 27 days annual leave + eight days general public holiday
  • after five years’ service: 29 days annual leave + eight days general public holiday
  • after ten years’ service: 33 days annual leave + eight days general public holiday.

Irregular shifts

If you work standard shifts, other than seven and a half hours excluding meal breaks, your annual leave and general public holiday entitlements should be calculated on an hourly basis, to prevent you receiving greater or less leave than colleagues on standard shifts (section 13.5).

Part-time workers

Part-time workers will be entitled to paid public holidays no less than pro-rata to the number of public holidays for a full-time worker, rounded up to the nearest half day (section 13.6). As a part-time worker, your public holiday entitlement shall be added to your annual leave entitlement, and you should take the public holidays you would normally work as annual leave (section 13.7).

Annual leave pay

Pay during annual leave will include regularly paid supplements, including any recruitment and retention premia, payments for work outside normal hours and high cost area supplements. Pay is calculated on the basis of what you would have received had you been at work. This would be based on the previous three months at work or any other reference period that may be locally agreed (section 13.9). If you believe you have been underpaid, please call us.

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Maternity pay

Maternity pay entitlements

Contractual payments under AfC are as follows:

  • for the first eight weeks of absence you will receive full pay, less any Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance (including any dependents’ allowances) 
  • for the next 18 weeks you will receive half of full pay, plus any Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance (including any dependents’ allowances), providing the total receivable does not exceed full pay
  • for the next 13 weeks, you will receive any Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance that you are entitled to under the statutory scheme (section 15.21).

Eligibility for AfC contractual maternity pay

Whether you work full-time or part-time you will be entitled to paid and unpaid maternity leave under the NHS contractual maternity pay scheme if you have 12 months’ continuous service with one or more NHS employers at the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth (sections 15.61 to 15.65).

Before the end of the 15th week before the expected date of childbirth (or if this is not possible, as soon as is reasonably practicable thereafter) you must provide your employer with a MATB1 form (see section 15.7). 

You must also inform your employer in writing of:

  • your intention to take maternity leave
  • the date you wish to start your maternity leave. You can choose when to start this, usually any date from the beginning of the 11th week before the baby is born (but see paragraph 15.8)
  • your intention to return to work with the same or another NHS employer for a minimum period of three months after your maternity leave has ended.

Continuous employment and reckonable service

See sections 12 and 15.61 to 15.65 of the AfC handbook for advice on continuous service.  

Returning to work after maternity leave

To claim NHS contractual maternity pay you must intend to return to work with the same or another NHS employer for a minimum period of three months after your maternity leave has ended (section 15.7).

You can return to work early if you give at least 28 days’ notice, although some local policies require eight weeks (section 15.36).

You have the right to return to your job, under your original contract with no less favourable terms and conditions (section 15.37).

If you want to return to work on different hours in the same job your employer must facilitate this unless they provide written, objectively justifiable reasons why this is not possible (section 15.38).

Failure to return to work

If you do not return to NHS employment within 15 months of the beginning of your maternity leave, then you will be liable to refund the whole of your maternity pay (except for the Statutory Maternity Pay element). In cases where your employer considers that to enforce this provision would cause undue hardship or distress, they will have the discretion to waive their rights to recovery (section 15.41).

If you satisfy the conditions in paragraph 15.7 but do not intend to work with the same or another NHS employer for a minimum period of three months after your maternity leave is ended, you will only will be entitled to pay that is equivalent to Statutory Maternity Pay. This is paid at 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks of your maternity leave and at a flat rate sum for the following 33 weeks (section 15.56).

Increments

Incremental pay progression for all pay points, within each pay band, will be conditional upon you demonstrating that you have the requisite knowledge and skills/competencies for their role and that you have demonstrated the required level of performance and delivery during the review period, as determined locally in line with Annex 23 (England and Wales).

Maternity leave, whether paid or unpaid, shall count as service for annual increments and for the purposes of any service qualification period for additional annual leave. The expectation is that when on maternity leave you would progress through a KSF gateway/increment (in England) on the due date, if concerns had not been raised about your ability to meet your KSF outline prior to maternity leave (section 15.48).

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Reckonable service

Section 12 of the AfC handbook states:

"12.1 An employee’s continuous previous service with any NHS employer counts as reckonable service in respect of NHS agreements on redundancy, maternity, sick pay and annual leave. 

12.2 Employers have discretion to take into account any period or periods of employment with employers outside the NHS, where these are judged to be relevant to NHS employment. 

12.3 When employees who have been transferred out of NHS employment to a non-NHS provider return to NHS employment, their continuous service with a new non-NHS employer providing NHS funded services, will be counted as reckonable in respect of NHS agreements on sick pay, annual leave and incremental credit.”

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Bank work and reckonable service

Historically bank work has not been considered as employment because the normal requirements of a 'contract of employment' do not exist between the parties. In particular, the requirement that there was 'mutuality of obligation', i.e. the compulsion on an employee to attend work and the compulsion on the employer to pay them for that attendance (amongst other things). As a result, working on the NHS bank is generally not counted for the purposes of reckonable and/or continuous service.

We have tested this issue on behalf of members in the courts in the past without success. In the absence of 'continuous previous service' with the NHS, employers do have discretion under section 12.2 of the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook to take in to account 'any period or periods of employment with employers outside the NHS where these are judged to be relevant to NHS employment'.

Whilst this is discretionary and employers may argue that staff who work solely on a bank are not employees, staff might want to argue that this approach goes against the spirit of the clause and they should be entitled to some recognition of the years of service.

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Need more advice?

Call RCN Direct on: 0345 772 6100