Hospital parking – a charge too far

Staff who drive to work in hospitals in England probably have to pay when they get there.

Keep it free

UNISON believes that hospital parking should be free for NHS staff across the UK. However, until the pandemic struck, sites in England, Northern Ireland and three sites in Scotland were still charging staff to park at work.

Coronavirus changed all that. During the pandemic hospital parking has been free for NHS staff and local authorities and private providers also offered free parking to health and social care staff.

At the beginning of July, the Prime Minister confirmed that this would remain the case but by the beginning of August things were starting to change.

Some employers are planning to reinstate parking charges for staff while some workers are already being charged to park at work while they deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

This is in spite of the NHS England People Plan, published at the beginning of August stating that: “NHS organisations should continue to give their people free car parking at their place of work for the duration of the pandemic”.

We are now seeing local lockdowns across the country and it is clear that this crisis is not over.

UNISON believes that it is far too soon for hospitals to be forcing their staff to pay to park at work – especially when it is vital that they can get to work in the safest possible way while COVID-19 remains a threat.

We all need to do everything we can to protect the entire health and social care workforce from contact with the general public on transport systems. This will not only reduce the likelihood of health staff contracting the virus and being forced to isolate, or to seek medical help, it will also help reduce the risk of members of the public catching the virus from NHS and social care staff.

UNISON is demanding that:

  • Car parking at work for NHS continues to be free for staff for as long as necessary to help keep them safe and healthy
  • Employers work with us to persuade government, local authorities and private providers to make sure that NHS and social care staff don’t have to pay to park at work for the duration of the pandemic.

What you can do

UNISON members:

  • Get in touch with your branch and find out what is happening where you work
  • Take our survey and help us campaign for staff to have access to free parking in hospitals in England, Northern Ireland and the three sites in Scotland that still charge.

Take our survey

No going back to normal

The pandemic has proved that it is possible for trusts to let staff park for free and we want to see this continue after the crisis is over.

We know that some trusts may not be able to simply end their contacts with the companies who manage their parking operation, but we still expect them to make some changes in the short term until the contracts are up. They can sign up to our NHS Parking Charter which calls on trusts to:

    • commit to scrap parking charges for staff within two years and agree an implementation plan with UNISON
    • post-coronaviirus, if they can’t keep parking free then only charge staff for the hours their vehicles are parked at the hospital
    • guarantee a parking place for all staff with a valid parking permit
    • provide emergency bays for on-call staff so they can park for free
    • ensure that the cost of parking is affordable and charges are consistent across all sites, by charging on a sliding scale so staff earning less pay less
    •  immediately give all staff with a disability free on-site parking (in line with the government’s manifesto)
    • immediately make on-site parking free for all staff working a night shift (in line with the government’s manifesto)
    • recognise the needs of staff whose choice about using their car is limited by the nature of their job or the availability of public transport and give those staff free parking
    • in the short term use the profits from staff parking charges to improve the safety and security of car parks
    • develop sustainable transport schemes like staff buses, pool cars for community staff, park and ride schemes and incentives for bicycle use and car-sharing schemes.

    What can branches do?

    If your trust is planning to reinstate parking charges for staff post COVID use UNISON’s parking charter to start a conversation with your employer about how unfair charging is. The more employers we can get to change their policy the better it will be for staff working for those trusts who charge. Help us make your trust a free to park employer.

    Ask staff what difference an end to parking charges would mean for them. You can run a survey or discuss it at meetings. Knowing what staff think will strengthen your arguments with your employer.

    Speak to members and other staff about whether they would support sustainable transport schemes like staff buses, pool cars for community staff, park and ride schemes and incentives for bicycle use and car-sharing schemes.

    And why not see if staff have ideas of their own to help reduce the impact of parking charges. Then you can present those ideas to your employer.

    Keep us informed about the progress of your campaign by emailing