2018 contract ambulance FAQs

Questions and answers relating to ambulance staff.

17 March 2020

This article answers frequently asked questions relating to the employment of ambulance staff for the period of the 2018 three-year pay deal.

2018 contract
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.