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Equal pay for work of equal value: the pay band revolution

Pay restraint and the down-banding of roles has demoralised the nursing workforce. At this year's RCN congress, delegates will debate whether nursing jobs should be systematically re-banded under Agenda for Change. 

Pay restraint and the down-banding of roles has demoralised the nursing workforce. At this year's RCN congress, delegates will debate whether nursing jobs should be systematically re-banded under Agenda for Change


Could a re-evaluaton of nurses' jobs help improve the pay situation? Picture: Getty

Years of wage restraint have left nurses facing a 14% real-terms pay cut since 2010, but could re-evaluating nurses' jobs help improve the situation? 

This is the thinking behind a resolution calling for a systematic re-banding of NHS nursing jobs under Agenda for Change (AfC). The topic will be debated by attendees at this year's RCN congress. 

'The system is still relevant, but nursing jobs haven't been re-evaluated for a long time,' says the resolution's proposer, Mike Travis of the RCN Greater Liverpool and Knowsley Branch. 'The RCN's survey shows that growing numbers of members think their pay band is not appropriate.' 

Job evaluation 

AfC is the national pay system for all NHS staff with the exception of doctors, dentists and most senior managers. Introduced in December 2004, its aim was to try to ensure equal pay for work of equal value across the NHS.

'But it is not scientific,' Mr Travis says. 'It's a best guess, and it relies on honesty and understanding your workforce.' In practice, staff are placed on one of nine bands, decided on the basis of their knowledge, responsibility and the skills needed to do their job, with a number of pay points in each band. 

Currently, most NHS nurses are on band 5. Other NHS staff on this band include catering managers and business administrative managers. Typically, nurse specialists or team leaders are band 6, nurses with advanced skills are band 7, and nurse consultants are band 8 in the range a, b or c.   

Job evaluation is a key component of AfC, enabling posts to be matched to national profiles to determine the correct pay band. Profiles work on the basis that many posts in the NHS are standard, with common features, thereby avoiding the need to evaluate each job individually. 

Banding reviews 

But while the language may have been updated, profiles have not kept pace, argues Mr Travis. 'Nursing has changed since AfC was introduced,' he says. 'It's become more complex and demand has risen at all levels.' 

He also cites what he calls 'job creep': lower-banded staff taking on extra duties and responsibilities, often due to work pressures and staffing shortages, without their pay band being increased accordingly.

As an RCN steward and safety rep at Liverpool's Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, Mr Travis says they are already starting to lodge banding reviews for some nursing staff. 

'We're not changing job descriptions, we're re-evaluating them properly,' he says. 'We're beginning to see an appetite to do this and the impetus is there.' 

'Good revolution'

Meanwhile, stewards across the UK are supporting grievances caused by poor job evaluations, with some employers seeking to manipulate the system to control costs, says Mr Travis. 

'Nursing staff have a lot of responsibility and accountability, but this isn’t reflected in our pay. We're the glue in the NHS and we need recognition for our input.'  

Urging delegates to vote for the resolution, Mr Travis says: 'It's a form of passive resistance to tackle pay restraint. We're looking for a good revolution.' 

RCN Congress 2017 will be held at the Liverpool Arena and Convention Centre from 13-17 May 


Lynne Pearce is a freelance health writer 

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