FAQs: Unsocial hours payments


The national agreement on unsocial hours payments is set out in Section 2(a) (England) in the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook.  To help employers deal with any questions from staff we have prepared the FAQs below. 

Under this system, shifts starting on week days will be paid at the rate which applies to the majority of the hours worked as part of the shift, while Sunday enhancements will apply to the 24 hours from midnight to midnight.  The effect of this for shifts starting at 7.00 pm and ending at 6.00 am, for example, will be:

  • shifts starting on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday: all of the shift would be paid at the enhanced rate;
  • shifts starting on Friday and ending on Saturday morning: all of the shift would be at the enhanced rate;
  • shifts starting on Saturday and ending on Sunday morning: the Monday to Saturday rate of enhancement for the hours 7.00 pm to 12.00 midnight and the Sunday rate of enhancement for the rest of the shift; and
  • shifts starting on Sunday and ending on Monday morning: Sunday rate of enhancement for the hours 7.00 pm to 12.00 midnight and Monday to Saturday rate of enhancement for the rest of the shift.

FAQs for employers

Does the system apply to overtime?

No - the unsocial hours payments apply to work done in standard hours between the hours specified.  Unsocial hours payments at time plus one half and at double time on general public holidays would be unaffected.

What will happen if I am promoted to a pay band with a lower percentage premium?

So long as your working pattern remains substantially the same in the higher pay band you will go to the first pay point which produces an increase in pay when your basic pay, any long-term recruitment and retention premium and the unsocial hours enhancement are combined.  If your working pattern changes the normal Agenda for Change rules for pay on promotion in Section 6 will apply.

What will I get when I am on annual leave?

Your pay will be calculated on the basis of what you would have received had you been at work.

Will my incremental date change?


Will my long-term recruitment and retention premium be included in my basic pay for calculating my unsocial hours payments?


Will my high cost area allowance be included in my basic pay for calculating my unsocial hours payments?


What will happen if I do overtime in unsocial hours?

You will receive overtime pay at time plus one half or double time if it is work on a general public holiday.

What will happen to other shift allowances?

These have been replaced by the new system of payments.

If I am in pay protection as a result of this change how long will this last?

The system and its introduction was designed so that few staff should need pay protection.  In the few cases where this is necessary the protection will last until the overall level of pay overtakes the protected pay or until 31 March 2011.

My shifts change a lot.  How will this affect my unsocial hours earnings?

The system is retrospective and payments will be made for each hour worked.  Every hour or part of an hour which you work after 8 pm and before 6 am will be paid at time plus the appropriate percentage.

Will on-call, standby and sleeping-in payments be part of these provisions?


What happens for pathology and other staff who, before the implementation of AFC, did not receive unsocial hours payments (USH) for work in standard hours that fell within an USH period?

Under AFC all staff who work unsocial hours within their standard working week, will receive USH payments under the provisions.

Are other groups of staff who might have had similar on-call arrangements to pathology, covered by the protection offered in 2.7?

In paragraph 2.7 the protection of on-call arrangements during the 'interim regime' are described as a 'particular feature of NHS pathology departments'. All out of hours working in pathology is defined as ‘on-call’.  However, other staff groups (including radiographers, physiotherapists and clinical scientists) may also work similar 'out of hours' arrangements which have also been regarded as ‘on-call’.  Where this has occurred, these arrangements are protected until new AFC on-call arrangements are negotiated.

What happened to the prototype Agenda for Change unsocial hours payments system?

This has continued to be used in ambulance trusts.

Why didn't everyone go onto the new percentage enhancements straight away?

Convergence, in stages over three years, provides a gradual transition to the percentage enhancements which is affordable and it avoids the needs for pay protection for most staff.

Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Employers

  • A personalised website
    Manage your profile and select topics of interest to you
  • Access your dashboard
    Bookmark useful content to help you quickly find what you're looking for
  • Get involved
    Contribute to our Talking Points discussions, comment on and rate our webpages
  • Keep up to date
    Receive the latest newsletters and media summaries

Log In