Advice line - Short shrift

The rising use and abuse of short-term contracts in the NHS is bad news for staff and patients alike, argues Kate Moran

If insecure work was once the hallmark of the private sector, this is certainly not the case today.

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that public and voluntary sector employers are more likely to use zero hours contracts than those in the private sector.

In the NHS there were about 67,000 members of staff employed on such contracts from 2012 to 2013, most of whom held clinical posts, according to Freedom of Information requests by the Labour Party.

The issue of job security is one we take seriously at the CSP.

Following on from our research on zero hours (or bank) contracts (see Frontline News, page 12, 6 November 2013), in January we asked our stewards to tell us about the use of and concerns about other types of non-permanent contracts.

Of the 120 or so stewards who responded to an online survey, 80 per cent said NHS workplaces were using short-term contracts and 60 per cent said this was on the increase.

The same proportion indicated these contracts were replacing permanent posts.

Job security is the number one issue, followed by worries about the impact on services and pay and career progression.

From the survey and parallel research we learned that fixed-term contracts were being abused by, for example, seeking to introduce a gap between two contracts and so denying maternity leave and redundancy rights.

Some members face pressures to work evening and weekend rotas for fear that a contract wouldn’t be renewed.

One young pregnant member on a short-term contract we spoke to expressed anxiety about obtaining a permanent post that would give her the kind of stability everyone wants when starting a family.

Another woman member who had a career break reported that she faced no choice but a fixed-term contract upon returning to work.

The CSP wants to promote quality employment for all CSP members, not only because it is right for members but because patients benefit too.

We will shortly be publishing a briefing showing the link between secure, quality jobs and quality services.
Kate Moran is the CSP’s head of employment research

Kate Moran head of employment research

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