Pay protected for NHS staff starting apprenticeships

Health workers were previously put off the programme because some employers expected them to take a wage cut

Health workers were previously put off the programme because some employers expected them to take a wage cut

NHS staff who become apprentices with the employer will not suffer a pay cut under a deal struck with trade unions.

The policy, which came into force on July 1, means existing staff no longer risk a “detriment” to their wages if they begin an apprenticeship with any NHS employer.

The move comes four years after formal negotiations on pay and employment terms for apprentices between unions and NHS trusts stalled.

Apprenticeships are key to the NHS’ long-term workforce plan, published last year, which aims to increase the number of clinical staff it trains through the schemes from 7 per cent to 22 per cent by 2031/32.

A breakthrough came after the pay deal between the government and trade unions that ended NHS-wide strikes earlier this year.

UNISON head of health Helga Pile said: “Previously, existing NHS staff wanting to progress their careers through apprenticeships were put off, or forced to drop out, because some employers expected them to take a cut in pay.

“Now this will no longer be the case, more staff will be able to take up these opportunities.

“Unions will now push the government and employers to go further and agree national pay rates for those starting out as apprentices.

“This would boost the numbers choosing to come into the NHS over other currently better-paid apprenticeship options.”

Prior to the deal, local health trusts could decide what pay rates to set for staff who became apprentices.

However, FE Week understands NHS England does not collect data on how many staff took a pay cut after becoming apprentices.

A summary of earlier talks on the issue, published in 2021, revealed they hit an “impasse” because England’s health trust representative body NHS Employers was concerned about costs.

Employers had argued “high demand” for apprenticeships that resulted in good future career prospects meant lower pay should not be a “barrier” to recruitment but trade unions insisted pay “should not drop” for current employees.

The dispute was referred to the NHS staff council which issued guidance to trusts that staff pay would only be protected if they were “required” to become an apprentice. Pay for staff who voluntarily chose an apprenticeship was “a matter for local agreement”.

The Department for Health and Social Care declined to comment when asked whether it knew how many staff were impacted.

A spokesperson for NHS Employers also declined to comment, citing pre-election restrictions.

NHS England confirmed this month’s policy change was made as part of the pay deal earlier this year.

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