Fair treatment for apprentices in the NHS

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2017 Health Care Service Group Conference
6 December 2016

Fair pay for apprentices

Conference will be well aware of the ever increasing numbers of Apprentices being employed within the NHS. There is concern that Apprentices, in some cases, are being used as a cheaper source of labour, sometimes on minimum wage, instead of being paid the correct rate for the substantive post, as per the Agenda for Change agreement.

It is believed that NHS Employers are in fact acting outside of an agreement which they themselves signed up to. When Agenda for Change was designed and established, it was acknowledged that new staff would usually be on a lower rate of pay initially, recognising that it would take time to become fully competent in the role. There would then be pay progression by increments towards the top of the pay band, which is the correct rate once a person is fully trained and competent to undertake the duties required of their post.

The new Government legislation from April 2017 will see Employers charged a not inconsiderable levy on their wages bill, which should be used to provide training for staff. Because this levy is very high, it can be perceived that NHS Employers will choose to take on more apprentices, probably on minimum wage, because there has been no enforcement of the AFC national agreement.

If there is no National agreement which Unison Representatives can require employers to keep to, then we are likely to be faced with all different kinds of local pay rates, depending on what individual branches and staff sides are able to negotiate locally.

This situation is far from satisfactory and therefore Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to work with the bodies named below, and any other appropriate bodies which it deems appropriate, to:

1)Through the Staff council, start discussions and find a resolution with NHS Employers about this situation.

2)Negotiate an understanding that Apprentices must be employed under the Agenda for Change agreement, as applied to all non-medical staff, thereby reducing the need for disputes, and ensuring that Apprentices are not used as a cheaper alternative for substantive posts.

3)To make sure that in particular, AFC Bands 1-4 receive the bulk of the levy fund monies paid by employers, to be spent on adequate training programs to support them in their roles.

4)Explore in conjunction with the NEC, and/ or other appropriate bodies, the pay situation for Apprentices in other Sectors, with a view to stopping exploitation of this group of members.