NHS trust under fire over pay-for-pensions offer

Oxleas slammed for band 5 nurses pay deal 

An NHS trust has been criticised for offering nurses higher starting salaries if they opt out of the NHS pension.

In a recruitment drive for band 5 nurses, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust is offering to pay nurses, in the form of a higher salary, the money it would have paid into their pension.  

The Pensions Regulator has approved Oxleas’ pay deal, but the NHS Pension Board, the government-appointed body which holds the health service to account on retirement pay, believes it breaks government rules on automatic enrolment into its pension. It plans to report the case back to the regulator. 

NHS Pension Board member Paul Moloney told Nursing Standard: 'Offering any young person more cash is going to be immediately attractive to them as they won’t have their retirement on their radar.

'There are concerns that other trusts will do the same, which begins to reduce the long-term viability of the NHS pension scheme.

'Young people need to come into the scheme and contribute for 40 years. If they don’t, funds will not be replenished for retired NHS staff drawing their pensions. If the NHS pension scheme is damaged, it will be more difficult to recruit staff.' 
Mr Moloney said the trust could have instead applied for a 13.5% recruitment and retention premium to raise its band 5 pay rates.

He said: 'This would mean the same pay rates they are offering now without asking people to come out of the pension scheme.'
RCN employment relations adviser Nicola Lee said: 'There are concerns about the impact on members of staff if they are not properly advised about the long-term consequences of opting out of a pension plan that provides both income in retirement and life assurance benefits.

'If a number of trusts were to follow suit, it would undermine the viability of the NHS pension scheme as well as Agenda for Change, the nationally agreed pay framework.

A Pensions Regulator spokesperson said: ‘'We do not formally approve any employer’s flexible benefits package. We investigate reports of inducement on a case by case basis and we will take action where we find that the employer has acted with the sole or main purpose of inducing a member of staff to leave a pension scheme.  

'Where there is insufficient evidence to show that an employer has acted illegally, the case is closed.'

An Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson said: 'Many nurses have left the NHS to work for agencies who offer significantly higher rates of pay. In doing so, they have made the choice of current income over pension. 

'We do not advocate any particular option. Instead, we offer our staff different ways of accessing their total reward package; this greater flexibility is what staff indicate that they want when they choose to work for agencies.’

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