Bank workers

This guide covers rights of bank workers, including the impact on reckonable service and pensions.

Working on a staff bank: overview

Historically, bank workers have not been considered to be employees because the normal requirements of a contract of employment do not exist between the parties. In particular, a '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) – is not in place in this type of contract. 

This does mean that as a bank worker worker you can choose the hours that you want to work. It makes bank work a popular choice for parents and those with personal commitments as there is no obligation to work on particular days and you only need accept the shifts that you are able to work. Likewise, the flexibility of bank work is often attractive to retired nurses who would like to refresh their skills or supplement their income. Some bank workers pick up additional shifts in a ward/department where they already work under a contract of employment. Others may pick up shifts in a range of similar working environments within the one workplace.

The practicalities of booking, changing, and cancelling shifts will vary from workplace to workplace, as will arrangements for payment and notice periods. Please check your paperwork carefully so that you are clear on the correct procedures.

As a bank worker you will also be subject to the workplace's policies around behaviour/conduct at work (see information on bullying and harassment), performance review and supervision (including clinical supervision where appropriate). Specific policies around discipline, investigation and grievance will also apply to you. When you start working for the staff bank be sure to find out how you can access these policies and ask the bank manager if you're unsure.

Bank workers are generally not regarded as employees and therefore do not build up 'continuity of service' in between specific bank shifts. This is important as continuity of service affects your entitlement to certain things (such as annual leave and contractual sick pay) under the NHS terms and conditions of service. The RCN has tested this issue in the courts, on behalf of members, without success.

In the absence of continuous previous service with the NHS, employers have the discretion, under section 12 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.

Please check any local policy and contract for more information on your position.

Auto-enrolment regulations require employers to automatically enrol employees into a pension scheme and make a minimum level of contributions on their behalf. 

For the purpose of auto enrolment in the NHS, workers are categorised into one of three categories: eligible jobholder, non-eligible jobholder or entitled worker. This is done by assessing age, worker status and qualifying earnings. For more information please see the NHS Employers information on auto-enrolment.

If the worker has two roles with separate NHS employing organisations (with separate PAYE references) both organisations are legally required to assess the worker under automatic enrolment legislation. If the employee has a whole time substantive job and also has a zero hours/bank arrangement with the same employer, the two arrangements can either be aggregated as a ‘single employment relationship’ with the pensionable hours capped at normal whole time hours, within NHSPS rules.

Find out more at pensions and retirement.

Working time, health and safety

Find out more about health and safety at work, and what to do if you have concerns.

Your contract

Get answers to your contract questions including notice queries and whether your employer can change your contract.

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Page last updated - 05/01/2021