Union anger as pension charges target 8a pay bands

Many members will be left owing money to the Government

Published: 08 September 2022 Trade Union & IR

Unions were left furious after the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) reneged on a commitment to protect the full value of the 2022-23 pay award.

The failure means that many members, mostly at band 8a or some who work part time earning close to a pension threshold, will be left owing money to the Government for the first six months of their pay award.

The SoR estimates those effected could owe between £100 and £450.

When the Government published their response to the NHS PRB recommendations for England and Wales in July, the DHSC quickly opened a consultation aimed at protecting the full value of the 2022-23 award for all staff.

The concern was in two parts:

  • That some staff could again be caught in losing all or most of their backpay because pension thresholds wouldn’t be adjusted for the impact of the pay award
  • Confusion and complication arising from the thresholds changing mid year, especially for those who work independently or who pay their contributions annually. The solution sought was to calculate this year’s contributions on the previous full year’s income.

Following consultation, the DHSC informed the NHS Pension Scheme Advisory Board on Wednesday 7th September that they would do nothing to prevent the first problem this year, and that their reforms, including uplifting thresholds in line with awards in future cannot be sure to address the problem in future years, where an award is paid late.

The mechanism for solving the second problem was also confusing and unclear.

The SoR will now be writing to the new Secretary of State asking for a meeting to specifically discuss the crisis in Band 8a recruitment and to ask why they have been targeted in the pay award – firstly in being awarded less than 3% when everyone else got between 4% and 5.2%; and secondly now having more than half of that taken off them in pension contribution back payments.

SoR Executive Director Dean Rogers, said: “This is a scandalous situation the DHSC said they were looking to address. Their excuse adds insult to injury, telling us 'it has happened to others' in previous years so we think it is unfair not to do it again. Many of those it is happening to now are exactly the same people it happened to last year and before. This is targeted.”

Dean adds, “The two groups we highlighted as being most impacted by this terrible, inadequate award were Band 5s and Band 8as – two groups that are disproportionately impacted by pension thresholds and where recruitment are retention are incredibly difficult for a host of reasons. Applying for promotion to 8a is a difficult economic choice – most of our members already earn more from overtime they’d no longer get paid for and the roles come with responsibility not recognised in the miserly pay rise. This pay differential is eroded further by the award. Now the DHSC have chosen, after consideration, to take most of the miserly award back. The Department seems to think they’re overpaid.”

The SoR member pay consultation remains open and all members, including any impacted by these “overpayments” are encouraged to make sure they return their consultation survey. In the meantime the SoR, along with other unions are seeking ways to spread repayments although some Trusts have already indicated they want to collect the monies from the backpay in one go.

All members are also encouraged to update their membership records are up to date by clicking here

Up-to-date records will be important if the SoR, following the member consultation, decide to being a formal industrial action ballot as we are already committed to in Scotland next month.