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Permission to work flexible hours still a lottery for Scottish nurses

Scottish nurses still do not have the full benefits of flexible working policies already in place in England and Wales and must rely on supportive managers
Picture shows a computer screen displaying a work rota, with a nurse in the background

Scottish nurses still do not have the full benefits of flexible working policies already in place in England and Wales and must rely on supportive managers

Scottish nurses are facing a ‘postcode lottery’ on flexible working despite pledges to review policies that lag behind other parts of the UK.

Like nurses in England and Wales, those in Scotland can apply for flexible hours from day one of employment, but Scottish nurses still do not have the full benefits of flexible working policies that are firmly in place in England and Wales.

In Scotland , nurses can only make a request once a year for flexible working hours, and agency staff are not eligible, but in England and

Scottish nurses still do not have the full benefits of flexible working policies already in place in England and Wales and must rely on supportive managers

Picture shows a computer screen displaying a work rota, with a nurse in the background
Picture: Jim Varney

Scottish nurses are facing a ‘postcode lottery’ on flexible working despite pledges to review policies that lag behind other parts of the UK.

Like nurses in England and Wales, those in Scotland can apply for flexible hours from day one of employment, but Scottish nurses still do not have the full benefits of flexible working policies that are firmly in place in England and Wales.

In Scotland, nurses can only make a request once a year for flexible working hours, and agency staff are not eligible, but in England and Wales multiple requests can be made and nurses have the right to appeal if a request is rejected by a manager.

Scottish health minister Humza Yousaf asked Scotland’s chief nursing officer Alex McMahon last week to review flexible working policies on shift patterns to help ‘completely knackered’ health and social care staff.

Mr Yousaf told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: ‘I’ve spoken to a number of nurses, for example, who tell me that having worked 30 years in the NHS they are really struggling to stay on.

‘I’ve asked my chief nursing officer to look at whether or not we can be more flexible right across the board in terms of working patterns and working shifts. I can understand entirely where doctors, nurses and everybody who works in health and social care are completely knackered.’

Image of a nurse standing next to a large clockface and holding the minute hand, against a background of a night sky on one side and a sunny day on the other
Image: iStock

Changes could help NHS Scotland to retain staff

Orkney nurse and RCN steward Martha Gill welcomed the review but said policy changes are needed urgently if NHS Scotland is to retain staff.

‘There are so many nursing vacancies nationally the NHS cannot afford to lose a single nurse. We should be bending over backwards to keep these valuable colleagues however we can,’ Ms Gill told Nursing Standard.

‘If we don’t, nurses will take the other option to resign and join a bank or agency and just take the shifts they want. This is happening already, and they can get as many shifts as they want.

‘Hopefully changes can reduce the inequality caused by the postcode lottery effect of either having a supportive manager who will use the existing policies to support you, or one that won't.’

In September the NHS Staff Council updated its terms to allow all NHS employees in England and Wales the right to request flexible working from their first day of work.

The guidance also said trusts should actively promote and encourage flexible working options, give staff the right to make multiple requests for flexible working regardless of circumstance, along with the right to escalate the request to appeal if rejected by a line manager.

A letter sent by the Scottish Government to health boards confirmed it would also implement the ‘day one’ policy from September but said it is currently reviewing all other aspects as part of the ‘Once for Scotland’ Workforce Polices Programme.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘The ability to work flexibly opens up career opportunities to more people, which is why we encourage employers and staff to adopt flexible working practices when possible.

‘In partnership with trade unions and employers, policies around flexible working are under ongoing review.’


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