Negotiators for NHS Employers and the NHS trade unions have recently reached a significant milestone. After many months of discussion, proposals have been agreed for a new system of pay enhancements for Agenda for Change staff whose standard working week includes work in the evenings, early in the morning, at weekends, on bank holidays or at night.

Developing a harmonised system for compensating staff who work during unsocial hours was one of the final steps outstanding from the Agenda for Change negotiations.

Agenda for Change stipulated that the national parties needed to develop new arrangements that would ensure the provision of a high standard of service to patients, were affordable and were consistent with the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. The existing unsocial hours arrangements included a wide range of complex payments based on outdated provisions.

Over the last year, a sub-group of the NHS Staff Council, including employer and trade union representatives, has been working to develop a system of unsocial hours payments that would meet the Agenda for Change requirements. Developing the draft provisions has been challenging and the work has taken longer than expected.

After agreeing on initial proposals, the group carried out an extensive period of testing with the service. The draft proposals were published for consultation and the group received feedback from employers and trade unions. This helped ensure that the final proposals were right for the service and for staff. The proposals have now been approved by the government and the trade unions will be consulting their members on them over the next few weeks.

The proposals mean that staff on Agenda for Change pay bands will receive their usual pay for their time plus an additional percentage depending on whether they are working on a Saturday overnight or on a Sunday or public holiday. There are arrangements allowing some staff to move to the new percentage enhancements in stages over three years in a way that is affordable and which avoids the need for pay protection for most staff.

The agreement of these proposals is a major achievement for NHS Employers and the NHS trade unions and for partnership working in general. The proposals now on the table are a good deal for employers, staff and patients. NHS Employers looks forward to getting the final agreement of trade unions and to implementing the new arrangements in April 2008.