Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services
Following my update last week, negotiations with trade unions have continued in earnest I would like to thank trade union colleagues who have paused industrial action to allow these meaningful conversations to continue.
As a result of these discussions, we have arrived at a final package of measures which the RCN, RCM, Unison, CSP, GMB, BMA, BAOT and SOR have agreed to put to their members who will ultimately make a decision on whether or not to accept the offer. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage members who have any questions about the offer to speak to their TU representatives.
It is important to be clear that this offer is the maximum we can afford to make for 22/23 pay offer and we have been open and transparent about our financial constraints with our social partners. Due to the constraints imposed by the fiscal framework within which the Welsh Government operates, the funding for the costs in the current financial year only remains available until the end of March. The reality is, that if this offer is rejected we will be unable to make any higher pay offer for 22/23.
Should the UK Government make an increased offer to NHS staff in England which results in a Barnett consequential (a proportionate amount of additional money) coming to Wales, I commit to making a further pay offer to staff in NHS Wales, subject to discussions with the Trade Unions.
This means that if this package is accepted those on the bottom of Band 5, which includes nurses and other health care professionals just starting their careers in NHS Wales, will have received a total pay increase of 8.62% (7.12% consolidated) for this financial year 2022/23 and our lowest paid staff will have received a pay increase of 14.15% (12.65% consolidated).
I understand that the strike action is not about pay alone, and so we have also developed a package of other measures aimed at improving some of the things that are frustrating our workforce. I sincerely hope that the non-pay elements provide sufficient assurance of our commitment to improving both recruitment and retention and the health and well-being of staff.
We have already started the pay review process for the next financial year and I am committed to delivering a fair pay rise for our workforce next year as part of that process, on top of the additional 1.5% that will be consolidated into the pay scale as part of this year’s offer. I have listened to trade unions and heard how they have lost confidence in the Pay Review Body (PRB) process and I commit to work in social partnership to influence changes to the PRB process for future years.
Whilst we have established strong social partnership arrangements in Wales it is important that the agreements reached are implemented consistently across Wales. As such as a part of this offer we will create a Partnership Agreement Hub to disseminate agreements, track progress, and hold the relevant organisations to account for delivery and compliance with terms and conditions so we can all be confident that we will deliver what we have promised.
Both I and the Welsh Government are committed to NHS Wales remaining a public, free for all service and delivering services in house as far as practicably possible. Delivering a fair pay offer for our workforce which is balanced to support the delivery of health services to the people of Wales and value for our taxpayers is central to this vision.
This final pay offer comprises an additional 3%, of which 1.5% is consolidated and 1.5% is non consolidated so will be in pay packets year-on-year, on top of the Pay Review Body recommendations, which have already been implemented in full. This offer will be backdated to April 2022.
- Unsocial hours allowance – will be reinstated (with immediate effect) after three weeks sickness absence (a 50% reduction from six weeks). There will be further work in social partnership over the next 12 months with the aim of reducing this further. We will also work in social partnership to review how the policy is implemented to ensure fairness, industrial injuries are properly recognised, and that staff are not discriminated against in line with the Equalities Act 2010
- Career progression - We want to support the career progression of our workforce. We will review career progression arrangements starting with nurse and other health care professional’s progression from band 5-6. This will include, but not be limited to, the development of a framework for career progression by Summer 2023. Work is already underway looking at a nurse preceptorship scheme which can be used to develop similar schemes across other professional groups, this action is included in the National Workforce Implementation Plan and is due to be completed by April 2023.
- Pay restoration – We are committed to the principle of pay restoration back to 2008 levels and to working in social partnership to make practical plans to meet this aim. This will include but not limited, to influencing UK Government and Pay Review Body (PRB) processes.
- Working Hours - Working Hours - We will establish a working group to explore the feasibility and implications of reducing hours in the working week for Agenda for Change staff which will report by Autumn 2023. This will look at the aim of moving to a 36-hour working week without loss of earnings whilst taking account of matters including, but not limited to, service provisions, safe staffing levels, staff wellbeing, and costs.
- Reduction in use of agency - We are committed to working in social partnership to reduce reliance on agency workers through incentivising NHS employment e.g. weekly pay, annualised hours, additional hours.
- Retention Strategy – Drive up retention across all professions through implementation and monitoring of the recommendations contained in the following: -
- The National Workforce Implementation plan
- The Nursing Retention Plan due in April 2023.
- And any other professional group retention strategies including the review of the Birth-rate Plus Report with the aim to implement its recommendations.
- Flexible Working - Commitment to delivering an all-Wales policy on flexible working by the end of 2023, working towards the principle that acceptance of flexible working becomes the default across the workforce, unless there are clear reasons to decline.
- Retire and Return – We will deliver an all-Wales policy on retire and return by the end of 2023. We will make joint representations in social partnership to UK Government to explore options for future pension flexibility regulation changes to aid retention and facilitate early retirement.
- Health and well-being – working in social partnership to deliver a programme of changes that improve individuals experience of work, including –
- Support for individuals to enable people to remain in work or return from absence as quickly as possible.
- Ensure that support for the mental wellbeing of staff has parity with physical wellbeing support.
- A focus on redeployment (including cross boundary working) rather than sickness absence when this is appropriate.
- Full implementation of the Fatigue and Facilities and Midwives Caring for You Charters.