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Band 7 and 8 pay is ‘disincentive’ to promotion, government advisers warn

Published on: 17 Jul 2023

Narrow gaps between Agenda for Change pay bandings are discouraging senior NHS staff from going for promotions, with some losing money if they move up a band, the government’s independent pay review body has warned.

The Pay Review Body said the Agenda for Change pay spine “currently can act as a disincentive to promotion” and warned this was a particular issue for staff moving to band 7 or 8a. These positions are typically senior clinicians with leadership/management roles and other managers under the director level.

Jon Restell, chief executive officer of Managers in Partnership, said employers were finding recruitment to band 8a “extremely difficult” and backed calls for the NHS Staff Council to address the anomaly.

The PRB’s report on the 2023 AfC pay deal, which was agreed between government and unions earlier this year and is separate from Thursday’s announcements on medical pay, said it was “acutely aware” of recruitment challenges in higher AfC bands.

“In particular, on promotion from Band 7 to Band 8a, base pay rises as little as 1.8 per cent and staff lose their unsociable hours payments,” the report said.

“We heard from staff that this can mean take home pay can reduce on promotion. Staff then must complete five years at Band 8a before moving up a pay point. We have heard from staff that the combination of these concerns means they do not seek promotion to Band 8a.”

The 2022-23 deal saw senior managers in bands 8 and 9 receive a pay increase as low as 1.3 per cent, while staff in lower AfC bands and on the separate very senior manager framework both received higher pay rises.

Later that year it emerged that some staff in band 8 could face a cut in take-home pay, after the impact of pensions contributions.

Mr Restell said the extra pay received by band 8a staff “does not properly reflect the extra responsibilities and pressure” on them and called for action through the NHS staff council to address the anomaly.

He said: “Progression from band 7 to 8a in the NHS has been a longstanding issue, which we have raised repeatedly in our evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body.

“Base salary is not the only issue, as Band 8 staff don’t get unsocial hours or overtime payments, meaning colleagues in the band 7 and even band 6 can have higher hourly rates than their managers. The issue has become more acute since the end of annual increments in 2018, which cushioned the loss of other pay additions.

“Employers are therefore finding it extremely difficult to recruit band 8a staff from within the NHS, particularly in clinical careers, and the five year wait for any further pay increase means retention is also a real challenge, with staff deciding the long wait for a meaningful pay rise is not worth sticking around for.”

Agenda for Change staff are receiving a 5 per cent pay uplift in 2023-24, under the deal agreed between government and unions earlier this year. Senior managers will also receive 5 per cent, government announced last week, while doctors will get 6 per cent, plus additional lump-sum payments for junior doctors.