The low pay award this year has highlighted an area of on-going concern for the CSP for those members in band 8a and for those seeking career progression into this band.
The nature of the pay award has meant the gap between the top of band 7 and bottom of band 8a this year has decreased, with those on band 8a receiving less than a three per cent pay award. At a time when the profession needs to be supporting more clinical specialists and leaders into this crucial band, the lack of a meaningful increase in pay between bands can act as a disincentive.
In addition the low pay award for those at the bottom in band 8a has still moved them into a higher pension contribution tier, meaning for many they will now see an overall reduction in take home pay in this band. Whilst this movement between contribution rates is long-standing and will also have had an impact at band 3 and 5, it has highlighted again why the forthcoming reform is needed to allow increases in pension contribution rates to take account of increases in pay.
The CSP, along with other health unions, have been seeking to minimise the cliff edges members can face when they receive a small pay award that increases their pension contribution rate, but then leads to an overall reduction in take home pay because the pay award is less than the pension increase. It is welcome that from 1 October there will be some reform which includes a reduction in the risk of this happening, but it is of considerable concern that this still leaves some band 8a staff facing a bill for back pay from April to September this year when the cost of living is rising so acutely.
CSP assistant director Elaine Sparkes said: ‘The CSP is extremely disappointed that the government has either failed to consider or ignored the consequences for members of the pension scheme of contribution changes alongside the delayed and unacceptable pay award, especially when members are experiencing a cost of living crisis, the likes of which we have not seen for decades.
The issue has been exacerbated by the government failure to deliver a pay award on time, meaning that for some they will owe more in pension arrears than the pay they receive in the backdated pay award.
The CSP has already raised nationally that any delay in the pay award being implemented, and the resulting back pay, can have wider consequences impacting on the pay members receive. For lower paid workers for example, the delay in the pay award and the resulting back pay could affect the receipt of some state benefits.
At the time of announcing the award, the impact was not widely known or publicised. Since then, NHS Employers have issued guidance and many trusts have begun writing to staff to let them know about the changes and any arrears that need to be repaid. If you have received such a notification, your employer should also offer you the option to pay any arrears in instalments rather than in one lump sum.
The CSP believes that this has only highlighted an existing issue with the band 8a post, and the need to recruit and retain into these posts and support career progression into the higher bands. We are working with other health unions with members who have similar concerns to ensure this is high on the agenda nationally and that there is a key focus on this in our pay case for next year.
Further information on the changes to the pension scheme
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