Unsocial Hours

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2016 Health Care Service Group Conference
15 December 2015

Health Conference notes the outcome of the Pay Review Body’s report on any barriers that unsocial hours payments place on introducing seven-day services across the NHS in England, Cymru/Wales and Northern Ireland which was published in July 2015; and conference cautiously welcomes the conclusion that there was no case for radical change to the Agenda for Change unsocial hours payment system

However, Conference notes with concern that despite this the Pay Review Body recommended that the Staff Council discuss unsocial hours payment system as part of wider talks on refreshing the Agenda for Change pay structure.

The PRB did consider Saturdays, 8-10pm and whole shift payments as possible areas of change. These are areas of change which were proposed to Junior Doctors unsocial hours payments. If implemented for Agenda for Change staff, these would lead to 25% decrease in hours considered unsocial, and thus substantial cuts in unsocial hours payments at a time when more staff are expected to work unsocially.

Conference anticipates a further attempt by the Government and employers to reduce unsocial hour’s payments, as they seek to expand more NHS services over 7 days and longer hours at no additional cost. Employers may see this as a way of cutting costs in an environment of tightening budgets, while the Government see the payments as a barrier to ‘seven-day’ services.

Conference notes that extending service provision into evenings and over the weekends is expensive, but this should not be to the cost of the staff that provide those services.

Conference believes that the issue of unsocial hours payments is very important to a lot of our members in the NHS. They compensate workers for the impact of working unsocial hours on their health and on their life away from work. It costs more to a worker to give up some hours of their time than others, and it is only right that working unsocial hours attracts a premium payment.

Conference notes that low levels of pay in the NHS also mean that unsocial hours have become necessary for many to earn an adequate household income.

Conference therefore calls on the Health Service Group Executive to:

1) Campaign vigorously against any Government attempt to worsen the unsocial hours payment system.

2) Highlight the fact that the NHS is already a 24/7 7 day service.

3) Resist any efforts to extend ‘normal working time’, and support other groups of health workers, such as junior doctors, in their efforts to resist such attacks.

4)If any reduction in unsocial hours is proposed, to organise a campaign amongst members to defend unsocial hours and ballot members for industrial action in line with UNISONs Industrial Action rules and procedures.