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Expert advice

Acting up pay for nurses: should you be getting more money?

If you are taking on additional responsibilities or covering a role that is not your normal one, you may be entitled to extra pay. Here is what you need to know

If you are taking on additional responsibilities or covering a role that is not your normal one, you may be entitled to extra pay. Here is what you need to know

Nurses are employed to do a specific job or work in return for a set level of pay.

It would therefore be reasonable for your pay to increase if you act above and beyond your normal duties – and the law is all about reasonableness.

Am I legally entitled to acting up pay?

There are two aspects to your work duties and the pay you receive in return.

The first is your contract of employment and the second is any nationally agreed conditions and

If you are taking on additional responsibilities or covering a role that is not your normal one, you may be entitled to extra pay. Here is what you need to know

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Nurses are employed to do a specific job or work in return for a set level of pay.

It would therefore be reasonable for your pay to increase if you act above and beyond your normal duties – and the law is all about reasonableness.

Am I legally entitled to acting up pay?

There are two aspects to your work duties and the pay you receive in return.

The first is your contract of employment and the second is any nationally agreed conditions and terms of service for the role in which you are employed. For nurses working in the NHS, this is the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service.

There are two main ways in which you might cover a role:

  • A role is temporarily or permanently vacant because the previous post-holder has left or because a new role has been created.
  • You are taking on additional duties outside of your normal duties.

What if I am taking on additional duties?

If you are taking on additional duties you should check your contract and role description, and determine if the additional duties are outside of those normally expected for someone in your role.

You will also need to consider how long the additional role elements are expected to last. If they are a permanent change, your role may need to be reassessed and reassigned to another banding, and you may receive a supplement for your additional duties.

If it is a temporary arrangement, your role description may cover this by requiring you to act up for a more senior member of the team on an ad hoc or temporary basis. If so, you may find that there is no acting up pay because it is seen as part of your contracted role to act up.

For longer temporary arrangements, you may need specialist advice that looks at your specific circumstances. If you are a member, then your union should be able to help.

What if I am covering a vacant role?

If you are covering a vacant role in the NHS you are covered by the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service arrangements. These provide that if someone is covering a role that is vacant, they should receive the higher level of pay for that role for the time they are covering that role, or their normal level of pay with a supplement to recognise the additional duties they are undertaking.

It is good practice before starting the acting up role to make a written record of the role you will be covering, any change in pay and conditions and the expected duration. This will provide the details that you and your employer can rely on if there are any issues.

There is no automatic legal right to acting up pay if you cover a role, as it depends on a number of factors, including whether your contract of employment covers your situation and/or the national terms and conditions of employment.


Further information


Marc Cornock is a qualified nurse, academic lawyer, senior lecturer in healthcare law at The Open University and author of Key Questions in Healthcare Law and Ethics

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