RepsDirect No 386 - 13 July 2005

Head of Health, Gail Cartmail General Secretary, Derek Simpson

Unsocial Hours Update

The attached update from the staff side of the NHS staff council executive outlines the preparation that has been undertaken for the review and negotiation of the AfC interim unsocial hours agreement.

This briefing note is an update on national discussions around developing a new unsocial hours structure.

Since January, a sub group of the NHS Staff Council has been meeting regularly to move this work forward.

The first work that was carried out was for the sub-group to meet with a number of staff side and management AfC Leads from a cross-section of Early Implementer Trusts. The purpose of these meetings was to hear of their experiences of using the ‘prototype’ AfC unsocial hours system and to establish what had happened since ‘de-coupling’ (In the case of EI Trusts they were given the option of staying with the ‘prototype’ or reverting to ‘Whitley’ unsocial hours) on a staff group basis.

In parallel with this process, the Staff Side set up a wider reference group of lay members and full time officers to help develop this work. The reference group met with Staff Side leads from seven of the Early Implementers.

The main lessons to emerge from this process were that

  • The ‘prototype’ worked well where working patterns were entirely predictable.
  • The majority of staff, in particular nurses, earned more from the prototype than from ‘Whitley’ unsocial hours.
  • However, a significant minority, including ancillaries and maintenance staff, required protection. Overall, the ‘prototype’ costs Trusts more.
  • Early Implementers had responded in a variety of ways to de-coupling - some staying entirely with the ‘prototype, some reverting mainly to ‘Whitley’, whilst others adopted a mixture, e.g. ‘prototype’ for nurses, Whitley for ancillaries and maintenance staff.
  • The ‘prototype’ did not provide sufficient incentives for staff to agree changes or for working at ‘unpopular’ times e.g. Christmas, New Year, and Easter. Some Trusts had agreed additional payments.

The second stage of the work of the sub group involved examining the unsocial hours options for testing and the processes of testing.

The management side and the staff side reference group both came up with options for testing. These are currently being ‘fine tuned’ but might be summarised as follows:

  1. Apply Nurse & Midwives (Whitley) system to all. Apply variations to this system that would enhance payments to Bands 1-3, e.g. tapering or flat rate payments.
  2. Apply Ancillary (Whitley) system to all
  3. Apply AfC ‘prototype’ with additional payments or narrower bands
  4. Differential system - paying a fixed % to staff on predictable patterns and a retrospective payment to others.

All of these options would be ‘bench’ tested in all four countries to get a picture of the potential impacts/outcomes under a number of headings, including:

  • Earnings/cost
  • Protection
  • Equal pay
  • Working patterns
  • Benefits realisation
  • Part-timers

Some of these options may then be piloted in Trusts that have ‘volunteered’ to run them.

The aim is to have completed this work by October, to allow negotiations on a new scheme to be concluded by the end of December.

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