Herts NHS cash-for-pensions deal is ‘morally wrong’ and ‘legally suspect’, says UNISON

12 September 2016

Unions will today (Monday) be protesting outside Lister Hospital in Stevenage against an offer of cash incentives by East and North Hertfordshire NHS trust to nurses who opt out of the NHS pension scheme.

The trust is offering higher salaries to new starters and existing staff in a bid to fill 200 nursing vacancies, a measure which UNISON says is “morally wrong”, against the law and discourages workers from planning for their retirement.

The union has already reported the trust to the NHS Pensions Board and the Pensions Regulator, and is now awaiting their response.

This is not the first time a trust has attempted to save money by targeting staff pensions, says UNISON. A similar offer earlier this year by Oxleas NHS trust in south east London to nurses was abandoned following union pressure.

UNISON’s head of health in the East of England Tracey Lambert said: “This deal, which applies to newly qualified and existing staff, is clearly a cost-saving measure.

“If offering staff more money not to join a pension scheme isn’t an inducement, then it’s difficult to see what is.

“Many trusts are under huge financial pressure as a result of the squeeze on NHS funding, and have difficulties filling vacancies.

“But saving on pension costs to subsidise higher rates of pay isn’t the way forward. Every worker deserves financial security in their retirement and staff shouldn’t be encouraged to put short-term gain ahead of long-term security.

“It’s morally wrong to condemn a generation of mainly female staff to poverty in their old age.”

Notes to editors:
* It is against Section 54 of the Pensions Act for employers to ‘induce’ staff out of a pension scheme or encourage them not to join one.
* The East and North Hertfordshire NHS trust deal applies to band 5/6 nurses and midwives either opting out or not joining the NHS pension scheme.
* UNISON, the Royal College of Nurses and the Royal College of Midwives will be protesting against the proposals outside the Lister Hospital at noon today (Monday 12 September).

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen l.chinchen@unison.co.uk 07778 158175
Sophie Goodchild s.goodchild@unison.co.uk 07767 325595
Tracey Lambert t.lambert@unison.co.uk 07908 675421