The new progression system

Pay progression  

As part of the agreement to shorten pay bands so staff get to the top quicker, future staff will find that they stay on the same point for longer. This means that instead of a small annual increment, increases will be larger, but there will be a longer interval between them.

Around half of staff in the NHS in England are already at the top of their pay band. And most others will reach it by the end of the deal as a result of the accelerated incremental progression they will get over the next three years. We estimate that 14% of current staff will not be at the top of their band by April 2021.

For those staff, together with those who get promoted into a new band, and for new starters ­– incremental progression will work quite differently. A new progression framework will be developed ready for use from 1 April 2019 onwards.

Fewer increments, further apart

Increments will no longer be annual but will happen after two, three, four or five years. However when staff do get them, they will be worth more.

Link to appraisals

All employers will need to apply a process, linked to appraisals, before allowing staff to progress to the next pay point. Some employers in England already do this, but others currently apply increments automatically. This will change in the new system, however the agreement makes clear that all staff are expected to progress on time and to receive the support, training and line manager input they need to satisfy the requirements to do so.

The basic requirements for progressing to the next pay point will be that staff:

  • Are up-to-date with any statutory or mandatory training (providing that this has been made available to them)
  • Do not have a live formal disciplinary sanction on their record at the time they are due to progress
  • Do not have a formal capability process underway at the time they are due to progress
  • Have completed appraisals in line with the organisation’s appraisal cycle and standards
  • For staff who are line managers – are up-to-date with all the appraisals they need to complete for staff they manage

Employers will be expected to work in partnership with their local staff side unions to develop appraisal policies that support staff to develop their skills and knowledge. These policies must operate fairly and without discrimination. This will require close monitoring, and safeguards such as training for managers, adequate funding for staff development and a robust appeals process.

Guidance on all this will be jointly developed ready for use with new starters from April 2019.

Simple process

The progression process will require line managers to be alerted in advance when a member of staff is coming up to the date where they are eligible to progress to the next pay step. They will then be responsible for working with the member of staff to complete the necessary review of their progression requirements, and for notifying payroll that the pay increase can be activated with effect from their progression date.

Current staff who will not reach the top of their band by the end of the deal

Only 14% of all current staff will not reach the top of the band by the end of the three year period. These staff will effectively switch in April 2021 from the current system of annual progression to the new system. The agreement provides that they can carry past service with them into the new system and credit it towards the time they need to wait before they can progress to the next pay step. For example, under the new system a new member of staff starting at the bottom of band 6 will take five years to get to the top. So if a member of staff currently in band 6 has only reached the intermediate point in band 6 by 2021, but has four years’ service, they will be able to progress to the top after just one more year. This way their total journey time will have been five years.

Re-earnable pay linked to appraisals for bands 8c, 8d and 9

Once staff in bands 8c, 8d and 9 reach the top of their pay band, the progression requirements described above will need to be met each year. If they are not, the basic salary could be reduced by 5% or 10% for that year. This can be restored the following year if the employee has met the requirements by then.

Further work on the progression system

Unions and employers through the Staff Council will complete further work before April 2019 to set out detailed guidance on how the progression arrangements should work in practice. This will include what should happen by when to activate progression if it is delayed, and safeguards to ensure that this does not happen unfairly.

Unions will also produce guides for their members on how to get the most out of appraisals and what to do if they have concerns.

Implementation of the new system will be closely monitored by the Staff Council and employers will be required to report back on how it is working.