Section 2: Maintaining round the clock services (England)

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2.1 The NHS delivers patient services around the clock. Where staff are required to work to cover services in the evening, at night, over weekends and on general public holidays, the NHS Staff Council has agreed that they should receive unsocial hours payments. Section 33: Balancing work and personal life set out the principles underlying this.

2.2 This section is effective from 1 July 2018. It applies to all staff employed in NHS organisations in England on the terms and conditions of service in this handbook.

2.3 The pay of staff working evenings, nights or weekends, on and after 1 July 2018, will be worked out in line with paragraphs 2.4 to 2.24 in this section.

2.4 Effective from 1 September 2018, this agreement will apply to ambulance staff who start their employment (new entrants), or who change roles (including promotion) in an ambulance trust in England.  From 1 September 2018 existing ambulance staff employed in England will be able to voluntarily choose to be paid under section 2 instead of under annex 5 of this Handbook.

2.5 Ambulance staff in England who are not affected by a change of role and who do not wish to voluntarily move from annex 5 to this section 2 will continue to receive unsocial hours payments in accordance with annex 5 and annex 6.

2.6 The standard hours of work are set out in paragraph 10.1.

2.7 Staff will receive an unsocial hours payment for their work in standard hours which is done at the times shown in table 2.

2.8 Unsocial hours payments will be worked out using basic salary. This will include any long term recruitment and retention premiums. It will not include short-term recruitment and retention premiums, high cost area supplements or any other payment.

2.9 Any extra time worked in a week, above standard hours, will be treated as overtime and section 3 will apply. Paragraphs 2.25 to 2.27 in this Section and Annex 29 set out the arrangements for on-call and other extended service cover. Staff cannot receive unsocial hours payments and payments for on-call and other extended service cover for the same hours of work.

Table 2

Unsocial hours payments  

From 1 April 2020 onwards

Column 1

Column 2

Column 3

Pay band

All time on Saturday (midnight to midnight) and any week day after 8 pm and before 6 am

All time on Sundays and Public Holidays (midnight to midnight)


Time plus 47%

Time plus 94%


Time plus 41%

Time plus 83%


Time plus 35%

Time plus 69%

4 - 9

Time plus 30%

Time plus 60%

2.10 The rates shown in table 2, column 2, will be paid for all unsocial hours worked on a Saturday (midnight to midnight) and on weekdays between 8pm and 6am. The rates shown in column 3 will be paid for all hours worked on Sundays and public holidays (midnight to midnight).

2.11 Where a continuous night shift or evening shift on a weekday (other than a public holiday) includes hours outside the period of 8pm to 6am, the enhancements in column 2 should be applied to the whole shift if more than half of the time falls between 8pm and 6am.

2.12 Staff will only receive one rate of unsocial hours payment for each hour worked.

Occupational sick and contractual maternity pay

2.13 From 1 July 2018, for the purposes of occupational sick pay, unsocial hours payments will not be payable during sickness absences for:

  • staff who first started their employment under the terms of this handbook on or after 1 July 2018.
  • staff whose basic pay is above £18,160 (regardless of the start date of their employment).

Unsocial hours payments will be payable during sickness absence for:

  • Ambulance staff employed prior to 1 September 2018, who choose to remain on annex 5 and 6;
  • staff who were employed under the terms of this handbook, as at 30 June 2018, and have a basic salary of £18,160 or less, and
  • those absent due to injuries, diseases or other health conditions sustained or contracted in the discharge of their duties of employment, (see paragraph 14.7 in section 14 (England) and who are not in receipt of injury allowance.

2.14 Unsocial hours payments will be pensionable and will count for contractual maternity pay, in line with section 15.

2.15 Unsocial hours payments will not be included in any part of the calculation of overtime payments, on-call payments nor any other payment described in this handbook.

Annual leave

2.16 Pay during annual leave is set out in paragraph 13.9.

Part time staff and other staff working non-standard hours

2.17 Part time staff working less than 37.5 hours a week will be eligible for unsocial hours payments.

2.18 Staff on annualised hours contracts will be eligible for unsocial hours payments as in table 2.

Self-rostering schemes

2.19 Where teams of staff agree rosters among themselves, including who covers unsocial hours shifts, it will be for the team to decide how these shifts are allocated, provided the team continue to provide satisfactory levels of service cover.

Prospective application

2.20 This agreement may be used retrospectively or prospectively. It will be for local partnerships to decide which option best meets local operational needs.

2.21 If this agreement is used prospectively it must comply with the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. It must produce broadly the same level of payments as a retrospective system, including for part-time staff. Local partnerships will need to agree a reference period that can be used to calculate the appropriate level of prospective payment.

2.22 Prospective systems are more likely to be satisfactory where work patterns are predictable. If rotas vary so much that it is not possible to predict working patterns accurately this is likely to be a good reason to choose to use the system retrospectively.

2.23 If operating the prospective system there will need to be periodic checks on the level of payments produced. These will need to be compared with the level of payments produced by the system in its retrospective form to ensure that the levels are broadly similar. This will allow early action to be taken in partnership if it does not.

2.24 Where the system is used prospectively an unforeseen change payment of £15 will be available. This will be used where it is necessary for employers to ask staff to change their shift within 24 hours of the scheduled work period. The payment is not applicable to shifts that staff agree to work as overtime, or that they swap with other staff members. It is not available, in any circumstances, in the retrospective system.

On-call and other extended service cover from 1 April 2011

2.25 On-call systems exist as part of arrangements to provide appropriate service cover across the NHS. A member of staff is on-call when, as part of an established arrangement with their employer, they are available outside his/her normal working hours – either at the workplace, at home or elsewhere – to work as and when required.

2.26 Employees on-call are entitled to receive an on-call payment. From 1 April 2011 this payment will be determined by local agreement on harmonised payments for on-call and other extended service cover. Local agreements need to be consistent with the 12 principles set out in annex 29.

2.27 The interim regime formerly set out in this section is consistent with these principles. It is now in annex 29.

Christmas and New Year holidays at weekends

2.28 General and public holiday entitlements are in section 13. These include Christmas Day, Boxing Day (26 December) and New Year’s Day. When any of these holidays falls on a Saturday or Sunday arrangements will need to be made to ensure that the right of staff to three public holidays in the Christmas and New Year holiday period is preserved. Annex 25 sets out what applies when staff work on general and public holidays in this holiday period.

Amendment number 43: NHS TCS Advisory Notice 01/2021

Information note number 1: amendment number 34

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