Questions and answers

Agenda for Change - Contract Refresh

The following questions and answers will be added to in the coming weeks as we receive more questions about the proposed agreement.


1. About the 2018 contract

1.1 How did we get here and why is a deal being negotiated now?

Agenda for Change was introduced in 2004 which brought together several pay arrangements in to one overall pay structure underpinned by Job Evaluation. While its success is well recognised, the NHS Trade Unions and employers have agreed the need for change to modernise Agenda for Change in a number of areas. The agreement reached in 2013 was recognised by all parties as the start of a wider conversation on the refresh of Agenda for Change. During the Autumn Budget (22 November 2017), the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed negotiations has commenced on the reform of Agenda for Change pay, terms and conditions framework. The Chancellor confirmed a commitment to provide additional funding for the lifting of the pay cap for the NHS Agenda for Change staff providing negotiations reached satisfactory conclusions, where funding would only be provided in return for increases to productivity, recruitment and retention.

1.2 Will ESR be ready for implementation of the changes to pay and terms and conditions in 2018?

We are working with colleagues from ESR to ensure that the system will be prepared and ready to support the changes to pay, terms and conditions as part of any implemented deal. However, due to the complexities of the changes required and the need to ensure accuracy of payments until the agreement is finalised ESR is unable to give an appropriate delivery date.

1.3 What can employing organisations do to inform staff of the proposed agreement?

Organisations should try and use existing internal communications channels such as their intranet and newsletters. If the individual is a member of a trade union, their union will be able to provide them with detailed information. Where possible it would be best to signpost staff to (the NHS trade unions micro-site), you may be able to include this information on pay slips. However, remember that not all groups of staff will have easy access to a computer or the internet.  We would suggest working in partnership with trade unions and union reps locally to help facilitate dissemination of information. This may include joint meetings with local staff side colleagues to explain the deal.

1.4 What is the breakdown of funding? Presumably some level of pay award was already budgeted for?

The government had already budgeted, as part of the 2015 spending round, for average pay increases of 1 per cent from 2016/2017 to 2019/2020. The £4.2b is additional funding on top of what had already been budgeted for in the system. The additional funding will pay for the reform of the pay structure (which includes higher starting salaries and faster progression to the top of each pay band for most staff), as well as the consolidated annual pay increases to the top of bands over the three years, and including the 1.1% non-consolidated payment that will be made to staff at the top of band in 2019/20.

1.5 How will the funding work?

The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that the multi-year deal is fully funded and that work continues on the best mechanism for ensuring NHS organisations and eligible non-NHS organisations receive the additional funding.

1.6 What will happen at the end of the three year period?

The pay award for 2021/2022 will be for government to decide as part of its agreed budget for public sector pay. The NHS Pay Review Body will retain its standing remit.

1.7 Are Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland going to have the same deal?

The proposed deal being consulted on is for England only. Should the deal be agreed then additional funding will be made available in England. Because of the Barnett formula, additional funding will also have to be provided to the devolved administrations. It is up to these administrations to determine what they do with this money, they are free to negotiate a deal with their trade unions which mirrors what has been negotiated for England.

1.8 What is happening to employee NHS pension contributions?

The proposed deal is about contract reform and annual pay awards only. It does not include any changes to pension contributions, this was not in the negotiation remit for these talks. A review of employee contributions is currently taking place alongside the scheme valuation exercise and any changes to the contribution rates will be implemented from 1 April 2019.

1.9 Does the additional funding take in to account the reduction in the number of pay points and the faster progression?

Yes, the impact of the structural reforms have been fully considered in the cost modelling of the proposed deal.

1.10 Are there any changes to the NHS job evaluation system?

No. The partners agreed that the underpinning NHS Job Evaluation scheme will remain unchanged. Jobs will continue to be evaluated to determine the appropriate pay band.


2. Pay

2.1 Will staff, under each of the three years of the multi-year deal, be better off under this agreement than they would have been under the 1 per cent pay cap?

The deal has been constructed in such a way that real gains for staff will be seen. However, in the unlikely event that a combination of circumstances prevent this, a secured clause in the Framework Agreement confirms a ‘no detriment’ approach which would protect any such individuals. Staff are encouraged to use the ready reckoner to view their individual pay journey during the three-years of the pay deal. This will allow them to understand the impacts on their base salary across the length of the multi-year deal.

2.2 Will any increases to 2018/19 pay be retrospectively applied if recommendations are made part way through the financial year?

If a deal is reached any pay award will be backdated to 1 April 2018. If a deal isn’t reached, then the NHS Pay Review Body will make their recommendations to the Secretary of State who will then decide the pay award for 2018/19.

2.3 What happens to incremental dates under the proposed deal? Will these be changed?

No, everyone will retain their existing incremental dates. For new entrants to the NHS, their incremental date (or pay step date), will be the date that they join the NHS.


2.4 Why does the pay structure appear to show a reduction in year 3 for some staff in bands 8 and 9?

The pay structure shown on pages 9 and 10 of the framework agreement is different from the individual pay journeys that people will experience. In the pay structure table, consolidated one off payments for some people in bands 8 and 9 are not shown, which is why the values in the pay structure decrease in year 3. These consolidated one off payments are shown in the table below. These payments are included in the individual pay journeys, and the pay calculator, and show that pay for staff on these points will not reduce and that they will be no worse off than under the current system.

Band Years of experience  Basic pay as per the pay structure in year 3   One off consolidated payments in year 3  Total pay in year 3 for existing staff
 8a  4 45,753   765  46,518
   5 45,753  2,766  48,519
 8b  4 53,168   2,282  55,450
   5 53,168   5,215  58,383
 8c  4 63,751   1,180  64,931
   5 63,751   5,534  69,285
 8d  4 75,914   1,949  77,863
   5 75,914   5,907  81,821
 9  4 91,004   3,209  94,213
   5 91,004   7,732  98,736


2.5 How does the pay calculator work out the increases over the proposed deal?

The pay calculator works out the individual journey a member of staff will go on in their particular band. It takes in to account the structural reform of the pay structure, the increases to pay points, and the progression of the individual through pay step points, to give an overall individual picture for every pay point. This methodology was agreed with the NHS trade unions.

For simplicity, the pay calculator shows the total pay during any given year of the deal, but in reality, as now, pay will change at two points during the year, once on 1 April through the cost of living increase (and any reform to the pay scales), and once on the individuals pay step date if they progress to the next pay point.


3. Pay progression

3.1 Is it compulsory for organisations to implement the new pay progression system?

All employers will be expected to implement the new pay progression system from 1 April 2019. Implementation progress will be monitored by NHS Improvement. NHS Employers will develop material to support organisations in implementing the system.

3.2 What benefits are there to employers and their staff?
The framework document sets out the agreement covering the three years from 2018 – 2021. It also sets out the pay investment and the reforms that will be implemented over the term of the agreement. These include:
  • guarantee three fully funded years of a pay award where organisations are not left to absorb any funding shortfalls
  • guarantee certainty of pay in uncertain times
  • support the attraction and recruitment of staff by increasing starting pay in every pay band
  • support the retention of staff by increasing basic pay for the 50 per cent of staff who are at the top of pay bands whilst speeding up progression to the top of the pay band
  • increase staff engagement by putting appraisal and staff development at the centre of pay progression. This will be achieved by ensuring staff are supported to develop their skills and competences. Through delivering this, the greatest possible contribution to patient care can be made.
  • supporting the health and wellbeing of NHS staff by looking at ways to improve attendance levels in the NHS.
3.3 Why has annual pay progression been removed?
In 2013, agreement was reached that allowed employers to link pay progression to their appraisal processes so that it is no longer automatic. The proposed agreement would move to that system for all employers from April 2019. By establishing this link, the importance of good appraisals, line management and staff development will be strengthened allowing greater staff engagement and a tighter focus on the training and skills staff need to deliver the best patient care.


3.4 Is it expected that staff will successfully progress through their pay-step review?

Yes. Employers should plan and budget on the basis that all staff are expected to progress on time. The exception will be where an individual has not met the criteria for progressing to the next step point. Employers should work jointly with local staff sides to develop policies which ensure that staff receive the training and support they need to meet appraisal requirements. Joint national guidance will be produced to cover situations where progression may be delayed.

3.5 Can we appoint people to whatever pay point we want in the new system?

The expectation would be that new appointees start at the bottom of their pay band, as now. Further guidance on the new pay progression system will be issued by the NHS Staff Council should the deal be agreed.

3.6 If automatic annual progression in ESR is being turned off, is it possible to turn it back on again locally?

No. The new pay structure ends automatic annual progression.

3.7 Will there be a national model appraisal framework to ensure consistency between organisations?

No, there is no intention to define how appraisal works at a local level, we recognise that there are many organisations with good appraisal processes. The proposed framework agreement states that additional standards for local appraisal processes could be agreed in partnership with local trade unions. If the deal is accepted, the Staff Council will produce further guidance and employers may wish to use implementation of the deal to review or refresh their approach to appraisal in partnership with their local staff sides.

3.8 What happens if someone is off on sick leave or maternity leave when their pay step date is due?

Sound the deal be agreed, detailed guidance will be issued by the NHS Staff Council in time for the new progression system going live on 1 April 2019. Clearly, the law prevents anyone from being treated less favourably in certain circumstances, for example if they are on maternity leave.

3.9 What will happen to the knowledge and skills framework (KSF) if the proposed deal is accepted?

The new pay progression framework is designed to ensure staff progress to the next pay step point only when they have met the required standards, which includes local personal or organisational objectives, including behaviours.

All staff must of course have the knowledge and skills they need to carry out their role. Employers remain free to use the existing national KSF or their own local frameworks.

3.10 Could organisations let people get to top of the pay band more quickly than the minimum periods set out?

No. The intention of minimum periods at each pay point was a critical element of the design of the new pay structure. Allowing people to progress more quickly would undermine the principles of the pay system and place additional unfunded costs on to the employer.

3.11 How will the new progression system work when people move employers?

Presuming the deal is agreed we will ask colleagues that manage the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) to ensure that pay step dates are recorded on to the system, and included in Inter-authority transfer (IAT) information. Therefore, when a member of staff moves to a new NHS employer, the IAT will ensure that their pay step date moves with them.

3.12 If our organisation already has a successful appraisal/performance management system, could we continue to use this?

Yes, the progression framework deliberately has the flexibility to allow local systems to continue where they are already working well. The new progression framework includes expectations about how local appraisals are managed, for example, regular conversations throughout the year and national standards that all staff must meet.

3.13 Will the new progression system be linked to individual, department, team, or organisational performance?

The new progression system is linked to individual standards, part of which is the appraisal process. Individuals may have objectives related to the wider organisation as part of their individual appraisal objectives. The system also allows any local standards agreed in partnership to be included in the process.

3.14 How does pay progression work during the three years of the deal?

Pay progression is not automatic under existing Agenda for Change arrangements. Since 2013 employers have been able to introduce arrangements that allow progression to be withheld if staff do not meet required standards. Because there is significant structural reform proposed to the pay structures over the three years, numerous pay points are being removed. These pay points will be removed in April 2018, April 2019, and April 2020. Staff who are already on a pay point at the time it is to be removed will be immediately moved to the next available point, even where this does not coincide with their existing incremental date. These staff will not receive an increase on their incremental date, because they will have received their pay increase early.

In 2018/19, this will only be the case for those who were previously on the bottom pay point. In the subsequent two years it will affect more pay points.

Staff will retain their existing incremental date throughout transition. On their incremental date, (if they have not already benefited from deletion of a pay point) it is expected that all staff will move to the next pay point reflecting their additional complete year of experience. Where employers have arrangements in place as a result of the 2013 changes, progression can be withheld where staff are not meeting the required standards.

3.15 How would the new progression system affect me during the three years of the pay deal?

If you are already employed in the NHS, the pay point you are on will move as set out in the journeys’ document. These movements happen as part of the pay restructuring process. It is expected that during transition employees will progress to the next pay point, subject to any required standards that are in place within their employer. The expectation is that all staff will meet the required standards and therefore be able to progress.

For example, if you are on pay point 14 in Band 4, your journey would be as follows:

Now: £21,263
On/after 1 April 2018: £22,238
On/after 1 April 2019/20: £22,707
On/after 1 April 2020: £24,157 – you would be at the top of the band.

Roughly 14 per cent of the staff currently employed in the NHS would not reach the top of their band by the end of the three-year deal. If you are on an intermediate point by the end of the deal, your onward pay progression will be determined by the new pay progression system which is described in outline in the Framework document, with operational details agreed in partnership within your organisation. If you end the three-year deal on one of the following paypoints:

£27,416 (Band 5)
£33,779 (Band 6)
£41,723 (Band 7)

You will move to the next point up on 1 April 2021.


4. Terms and conditions

4.1 What changes have been made to sick pay and unsocial hours?

The proposed agreement would amend the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook so that the protected sick pay enhancements that apply to those on spine points 1 to 8 of the current structure, would apply to those earning £18,160 or less. We anticipate over the period of the pay deal that the minimum pay point of the pay structure will exceed this value.

4.2 Ambulance specific: Specifically, what is meant by 'all changes of roles’ under paragraph 6.3 (a) of the Framework Agreement?

Any movement which requires a new contract of employment to be issued would be considered as ‘a change of role’, thereby initiating the move to section 2 of the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook for payment of unsocial hours enhancement.

4.3 Ambulance specific: What are the unsocial hours and sickness absence changes for the Ambulance sector?

Effective from 1 September 2018:


  • All new entrants will be employed under section 2 rather than annex 5 of the terms and conditions of service handbook.
  • All existing staff who voluntarily move roles will move to section 2 from annex 5 of the ms and conditions of service handbook.
  • Existing staff who are not moving roles will be offered a voluntary move to section 2 from annex 5 of the ms and conditions of service handbook.
  • Any new entrants employed in the ambulance sector will be on section 2, and will not have unsocial hours enhancements paid as part of their occupational sickness absence pay.
  • Any existing staff members who voluntarily move to section 2 will not have unsocial hours enhancements paid as part of their occupational sickness absence pay unless they earn £18,160 or less.

Staff members remaining on annex 5 will not have any changes to their occupational sickness absence pay.

4.4 Ambulance specific: Do ambulance staff who are currently under annex 5 and stay under annex 5, continue to receive unsocial hours payments (calculated as part of a 13 week reference period) in any sick pay, as they do now?

A. Yes. There will be no changes to occupational sickness absence payments for existing staff who remain on annex 5.


4.5 What is happening to high cost area supplements (HCAS)?

HCAS will continue to be based on the same percentage of basic salary as now. The minimum and maximum of limits will be uplifted by the same amount as the top of the pay scales in each year of the deal, should it be signed off. The framework agreement states that the NHS Pay Review Body will also be asked to consider the role of HCAS.

4.6 Is anything changing with recruitment and retention premia (RRP)?

The deal does not propose any changes to RRPs, but does say that the NHS Pay Review Body will be asked to consider the role of RRPs.

4.7 Is there any change being proposed to injury allowance provisions?

No changes to injury allowance were agreed as part of these talks.

4.8 Some staff are worried about the minor adjustments to unsocial hours in bands 1 – 3, how can we reassure them?

The adjustments have been carefully designed so that no one can be worse off, even if they work all of their time in unsocial hours periods. Effectively what is happening is that the amount of money paid for each unsocial hour is being frozen in these bands for the periods of the deal, but at the same time basic pay is going up. The trade union micro-site has a table which illustrates well how this works for Band 1, Band 2, and Band 3.


5. Implementation

5.1 What are the timelines going forwards?

The working timelines are as follows:

 Consultation     Key dates Activity 
  21 March  NHS Staff Council meeting – to formally launch the trade union consultation – “Go public” date.
  March - July Implementation preparation work undertaken to support employers should an agreement be reached. 
  End of May - Early June Trade unions to confirm outcome of their consultation and whether an agreement has been reached.

Government sign-off of any collective agreement.

  27 June Special NHS Staff Council to formally ratify any agreement.
Implementation subject to agreement  Key dates


  July Pay Advisory Notices issued with any pay award backdated to 01 April 2018. 
  December              Band 1 closes to new entrants. Preparations will need to be made in advance.
  2019 New pay progression system becomes operational.


5.2 How should we advertise roles on Agenda for Change whilst the consultation is underway?

There will be no changes to Agenda for Change unless the proposals are formally agreed following the trade union consultation. Therefore, any roles advertised should be under the current arrangements as there is no guarantee that these will change.

You may wish to mention in your job adverts and supporting material that a deal had been reached with the NHS trade unions on changes to the current arrangements, which trade union members are currently being consulted on.

5.3 Can organisations start preparing for implementation now?

This is a decision for each organisation, but organisations should bear in mind that NHS trades unions must consult their members on the proposed deal and it must be formally accepted by trades unions and government before it could come in to force. There is no guarantee that trade unions members will accept the proposed deal.

Should the deal be formally agreed, NHS Employers will provide organisations with details of what to do next, and support for implementation of the deal.

5.4 Will there be support for the closure of Band 1?

The NHS Staff Council will provide guidance on upskilling roles from Band 1 to Band 2. Band 1 would be closed to new entrants from December 2018, and the expectation would be that staff should be moved to Band 2 (if they are capable) by the end of the three year deal in 2020/21.

5.5 Is there any more information about buying and selling annual leave?

We are aware that many trusts already offer these schemes in some form, but some employers do not offer buying and selling of leave, or only offer buying but not selling, and vice versa.

The intention is that a national model framework will be developed in partnership by the NHS Staff Council so that all employers that do not offer these provisions are able to, and those that already do offer some provisions may improve their offering.

Incentivising staff to sell leave by making sure they are rewarded appropriately for doing so can help in building capacity in key workforces.


6. Ambulance specific questions

6.1 Are meal breaks included in the calculation of the unsocial hours under section 2?

We recognise that ambulance staff take breaks at varying times during a shift, or, sometimes due to operational pressure crews are unable to take a meal break during a shift. Unpaid meal breaks are not included in the calculation of unsocial hours, but agreements relating to paid meal breaks are.

6.2 Will unsocial hours payments be included in pay during sickness absence and annual leave for ambulance staff who move to the section 2 system of unsocial hours payments?

In line with the section 2 system, for staff on existing Agenda for Change pay spine points 1 to 8, unsocial hours payments are included in pay during both sickness absence and annual leave. The framework agreement proposes that new entrants to the NHS, appointed from 1 July 2018 onwards, will not have access to payment of unsocial hours during sickness absences. The eligibility for payment of unsocial hours payments during sickness absence for existing staff on points 1 to 8 will be phased out. For all other staff there is no eligibility for unsocial hours payments to continue during sickness absence, after outstanding payments have been made, unless the employer determines that the reason for the absence is caused by a work related injury or disease contracted in the actual discharge of their duties.

Under the section 2 system of unsocial hours payments, these payments are included in pay during annual leave. Agenda for Change is clear that you should receive what you would have been paid if you had been at work. This is based on an average over an agreed reference period.

6.3 Do ambulance staff who are currently under annex 5/E and stay under annex 5/E, continue to receive unsocial hours payments (calculated as part of a 13 week reference period) in any sick pay, as they do now?

Yes. There will be no changes to occupational sickness absence payments for existing staff who remain on annex 5.

6.4 I am on a training course through my employer which I started before this proposal was known. Will I have to switch to section 2 or will I retain the choice?

If you are on a course that started before 1 September 2018 then you will retain the choice to stay on annex 5/E or move to section 2 at the end of your course, even if this is spread out over a couple of years. An example of this is an internal technician to paramedic conversion course. This is based on the principle that when you started your training you would not have known about the changes to unsocial hours calculations.

6.5 Will a move to section 2 change overtime rates?

No. There is a single harmonised rate of time-and–a-half for all overtime, with the exception of work on general public holidays, which will be paid at double time.

6.6 What is going to happen with Newly Qualified Paramedics (NQPs)?

The current system will stay in place, meaning NQPs will start at the bottom of band 5 and move to bottom of band 6 after a maximum of 24 months. Anyone currently in an NQP role before the 1 September 2018 will retain their ability to decide on the move to section 2 on completion of the NQP programme.

6.7 If I apply for flexible working, will I automatically move onto section 2?

No. Staff are able to chose to move to section 2. Sometimes people need to move to flexible working as a way to balance work life and personal or family commitments. If you are applying for a move to flexible working you will retain your choice to move to Section 2.

6.8 How does an employer decide on whether a period of sickness is related to my work?

Agenda for Change, section 14 and section 22 describe how employers should establish whether an absence is wholly or mainly attributable to your work. Guidance for staff and employers on injury allowance are available for Section 22.

6.9 What happens if I am on long term sickness?

If you are on long term sickness when the changes come into force you will remain on annex 5/E. Once you return to work you will be given the choice to make the change to section 2 or remain on Annex 5/E.

6.10 How does the pay deal affect my Local Recruitment and Retention Premia (LRRP)?

LRRP is based on market factors and should be reviewed regularly. Once the new pay structures are in place it may be advisable to review LRRPs to ensure they are consistent with annex 10.

6.11 Does a change of base or change of roster constitute a change of role?

No. Ambulance services are constantly changing to ensure the levels of operational cover match demand. Changes of roster and bases which are as a result of these changes do not constitute a voluntary change of contract so you would not move to section 2 unless you exercised your individual choice.

6.12 If I return from maternity leave what would happen?

You would return under your current terms and conditions and would then be able to choose whether you remain on Annex 5/E or move to section 2 based on your working pattern following maternity leave.

6.13 Would a change of hours or any other reasonable adjustment following a capability/sickness absence process be a change of role?

A reasonable adjustment helps and employer to retain employment of staff who have developed a disability. For that reason it will not automatically mean a move to section 2.

6.14 What if there was a restructure that led to a change of roles as a suitable alternative to redundancy?

Whether a role constitutes a suitable alternative offer of employment will depend on the circumstances involved. A restructure is not a voluntary change of role therefore the person would retain their choice.

6.15 If undertake a secondment will I be moved on to section 2 automatically?

No, a secondment is temporary working arrangement and does not constitute a change of contract or change of role.

6.16 If I take a career break will I be moved on to section 2 automatically?

Career breaks have the effect of pausing the contract of employment for an agreed period of time. Providing the contract is restarted within the agreed timeframe you will return on your existing terms as at the point of the career break.

6.17 What about staff who TUPE back into the NHS from an outsourced provider?

The effect of TUPE will be to transfer the staff with their terms and conditions of service at the point of the transfer. If staff are on annex 5/E then they will remain on this through the transfer.

6.18 What is the effect of a move from Annex 5/E to section 2?

The move to section 2 would mean the way your unsocial hours are calculated would change and you would not receive your unsocial hours when you are off work sick, unless your sickness absence is work related. It should not mean changes to other related terms and conditions such as overtime, standby and payment for shift overruns.

6.19 I work for a trust where a local agreement caps my pay at a particular pay point in the AfC band I am in, for example advanced technician. How will the national pay agreement affect me?

Through restructuring of the bands the capped point will be removed and you will progress through the band. The individual pay journeys described in the NHS Staff Council document set out how your pay will change over the next three years. Depending on your incremental date and the pay point you are currently on, you will be able to follow your journey through the restructuring of the pay bands.

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