The technical work on Agenda for Change is at long last drawing to a conclusion.
In the first of a series of articles on Agenda for Change, Colin Adkins, Amicus MSF’s Research and Policy Officers reports on an advice note issued to the Service on the Job Evaluation Scheme.
What is Job Evaluation?
Job evaluation (JE) is a means of comparing one job with another.
It does this by breaking down jobs into their various components (called factors).
Once factors are identified these are, in turn, broken down into various levels of responsibility.
The job evaluation scheme will determine a new "rank order" of jobs in the NHS and therefore of pay.
All staff will now be on one of three pay spines. Community Practitioners and Community Nurses will be positioned on the central spine alongside other nurses and midwives and a range of allied health professions.
How has this work been conducted?
A Job Evaluation Working Party (JEWP) was established in November 1997 to examine the use of job evaluation systems in the NHS.
JEWP is made up from Staff Side and Management Side representatives, supported by DOH, working in partnership.
So why have a separate NHS scheme?
Early work undertaken by JEWP established that none of the commonly available Job Evaluation schemes was suitable for applying to the range of NHS jobs in the UK and social care jobs in Northern Ireland.
A decision was taken to develop a scheme purposely designed by JEWP which would cope with the range and diversity of NHS jobs and underpin the plans for pay reform outlined in the Agenda for Change White Paper.
JEWP has been assisted by two independent experts.
The scheme was intended to be able to differentiate and rank NHS jobs, to be sensitive to the organisational environment in which it would operate, and support equal pay for equal value principles.
This is a bespoke scheme for the NHS.
How have the talks progressed?
JEWP has constructed and tested a Job Evaluation Scheme containing sixteen factors grouped into three main families to cover skills, responsibilities and effort.
Each factor describes a number of different levels of demand allowing NHS jobs to be measured under each.
Sixteen is a relatively large number of factors compared to some existing schemes.
It was considered necessary to have this number of factors to ensure that all relevant job features are adequately and fairly measured.
Considerable care was taken in designing the scheme to ensure that the factors did not either conflate or double count job features.
Advice has been taken from the Equal Opportunities Commission and other Equality bodies at key points during the design stage.
This input has been essential in ensuring the scheme is objective, free from bias and fair to all staff.
Has this worked been validated?
Several rounds of testing and subsequent refinement have taken place to bring the Job Evaluation scheme very close to its final state.
The skills, knowledge and experience of NHS staff have been used to develop the scheme using information obtained from NHS postholders.
How many jobs have been evaluated or benchmarked?
Over four hundred jobs have been benchmarked.
The jobs have come from sites across the four countries reflecting a mix of representative organisations and geographical locations.
The methodology has been to acquire information from post holders with the assistance of two analysts – one a staff representative and one a management representative – working in pairs.
These have been trained to operate the new scheme.
The questionnaires have been evaluated by panels of four staff – two representing staff and two Management side.
The benchmarks are now being used to create a library of profiles of key and most common NHS jobs.
These will give NHS organisations the reference points they will need to be able to decide easily and quickly what is the appropriate pay band for around 95% of NHS posts without the need to evaluate them locally.
Quality control of both the questionnaires and the subsequent evaluations has been performed by members of JEWP operating in pairs.
So how have MSF members fared?
The Agenda for Change negotiations on a new NHS pay system have been underway between the UK Health Departments, representatives of NHS employers and NHS staff organisations for nearly three years.
As the talks are being conducted on the basis that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", very little information has been released jointly by the negotiators on the new system that is emerging in the talks.
This is likely to remain the position during the final stages of the talks now underway.
Where do we go with Job Evaluation from here?
The scheme has not been formally agreed by the Central Negotiating Group.
This information is made available to improve understanding of how Job Evaluation is likely to apply across the NHS.
The factor plan is being made available in the four countries without the accompanying weighting and scoring system.
This will be made available in the future.
The Job Evaluation scheme is, at this stage, not for use in evaluating posts within the NHS.
Once agreed its use will only be approved once organisations have been trained in its use.
Prior to any implementation training will be provided through the Modernisation Agency.
Equivalent arrangements are being made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.