Agenda for Change flexibilities

staff in a meeting

16 / 4 / 2014 Midnight

In February 2013, the NHS Staff Council agreed changes to the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook, which covers staff on Agenda for Change contracts in England. Employers and trade unions recognised the unprecedented challenges faced by the NHS and the benefits of maintaining a national handbook of terms and conditions that are modern and responsive to the needs of both local employers and their staff.

The agreed changes came into effect from 31 March 2013 and are detailed in full on the Agenda for Change pages. The below table summarises the division between national definition and local determination.

 National agreement Local responsibility
Pay structure/ Job evaluation scheme Job design
 Annual pay review Performance criteria for incremental pay progression
Standard working week Working patterns
Unsocial hours pay enhancements On-call pay
Overtime rates Recruitment and/or retention premia
Annual leave Special leave
Sickness pay entitlements Pay protection on organisational changes
Maternity entitlements Subsistence/ expenses allowances
Redundancy pay Removal expenses
  Lease car schemes
  Bonus/ incentive schemes

We have produced a one-page summary of the local employer flexibilities available under Agenda for Change. Two particular areas to consider in relation to your reward strategy are pay and performance and additional annual leave purchase.

Pay progression

Linking pay progression to performance (as detailed in Annex W of the Agenda for Change handbook) can be a key element of a reward strategy. 

Pay progression in all pay bands is linked to locally determined levels of performance, based on nationally agreed principles set out in Annex W. Additionally, pay progression beyond the first four pay points in bands 8C, D and 9 are now dependent on locally determined levels of performance and will be non recurring and reviewed annually.

A more detailed overview is available in the pay and performance section of this toolkit.  

Additional annual leave

Annual leave entitlements are nationally agreed and set out in the Agenda for Change handbook. A number of trusts have introduced locally agreed policies which enable staff to purchase additional annual leave. Such schemes allow staff to purchase additional entitlement at the beginning of the leave year with the cost deducted in equal payments throughout the year.

Individual trusts would need to consider parameters for their scheme such as the amount of additional leave that can be purchased and when. Annual leave is a vital element of work-life balance and supporting a healthy workforce, introducing an additional leave purchase scheme could help support the principles and goals of a reward strategy.           

Additional flexibilities for foundation trusts

Annex K of the Agenda for Change handbook allows foundation trusts to offer alternative benefits packages of equivalent value to the standard Agenda for Change package, for example greater leave entitlement in return for longer hours.

In addition, Annex K also allows foundation trusts to introduce new team bonus schemes and additional non pay benefits above those specified in the agreements.

For expert advice and any Agenda for Change pay queries please contact

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