Staff facing the axe under NHS restructuring will be protected from worsened redundancy and retirement terms resulting from new anti-age discrimination laws.

Staff facing the axe under NHS restructuring will be protected from worsened redundancy and retirement terms resulting from new anti-age discrimination laws.

Current redundancy and retirement terms, which favour older staff and long service, are set to be outlawed on 1 October under European legislation.

But strategic health authority and primary care and ambulance trust staff affected by the current reorganisation entitled to preferential terms will have them protected for as long as their jobs are protected.

Affected SHA staff have protection until 31 March 2007, while PCT and ambulance staff are protected until the end of next June.

Staff who turn 50 after 30 September, but before the end of their protection period, will also retain their eligibility for preferential early retirement deals available to staff under existing NHS contract terms.

As well as protecting staff caught up in structural change related to Commissioning a Patient-led NHS, all staff whose redundancy is announced before 30 September will retain their terms as long as their employment ends on or before 30 June 2007, under a deal brokered by NHS Employers.

A decision on whether to exempt staff from the legislation has been delayed since January.

The government was understood to be wary of agreeing a deal that would set an unaffordable precedent for other public sector employers. However, union Managers in Partnership had warned that a mass exodus of experienced staff before October was likely unless they could be guaranteed protection.

MiP chief executive Jon Restell welcomed the deal, but said it should have come earlier: 'High levels of anxiety for the last six months could have been avoided,' he said.

He added that it was time for NHS Employers to reveal 'hard terms' of how it plans to change redundancy and retirement packages as a result of the legal changes, as well as any transitional arrangements.

NHS Employers project manager Tim Sands said it will be putting out proposals for consultation 'in the next few weeks'.

Current redundancy terms improve as staff get older and would therefore be illegal under the new legislation. NHS Employers is planning to propose transitional arrangements so 'staff do not face a cliff edge where entitlements suddenly vary and the NHS does not face increased costs in the transitional period'.

  • www.nhsemployers.org