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Friday 26 May 2017

Making the most of Agenda for Change

By Sara Gorton

UNISON’s head of health gives her top tips for using the Agenda for Change agreement to to recruit, retain and motivate your staff.        

1. Be open and work collectively

Use the flexibilities within Agenda for Change (AfC) to fit the needs of your service. AfC can be an enabler of change, not a barrier to it. Approach your union reps with an issue, and collectively explore how you can achieve the change you want in a way that is consistent with the agreement. Try offering up the problem to staff and their reps rather than assuming your way of solving it is the only option.

2. But avoid the pitfalls

A lot of time and effort is wasted through misapplication of the AfC agreement. No matter how good your intentions, trying to make changes to how or where your staff do their jobs will usually result in bumping up against one aspect of the agreement or another. That can cause real difficulty if it comes up at a late stage, or even ends up in a legal wrangle. It’s nearly always avoidable if you...

3. Know your onions and use your anoraks!

Trade union reps are often experts on AfC, with incredible eyes for detail. Don’t be afraid to use their expertise, particularly with things like job evaluation; they’ll be happy to help. If you get stuck on an interpretation, you can refer points of disagreement to your Joint Negotiating Consultative Committee and via them to the NHS Staff Council – it’s what it’s there for.

4. Don’t get cynical

Your staff know you’re under pressure to deliver more – better, faster, and cheaper. They will see through attempts to manipulate the system. Make sure you risk-assess any changes for their impact on discretionary effort (see point 6 below) and tread particularly carefully with shift or rota changes.

5. Check the rules on re-profiling

If you’re changing the skill mix in a team, follow the guidance in Annex 24 (formerly Annex X) of the AfC agreement. It’s there to help protect against perceptions of ‘down-banding’ and help you assess the impact of changing some roles on the rest of a team.

6. Recognise discretionary effort

If you manage diverse teams of staff, you might not be aware just how much work they do for free. Assess the ‘goodwill quotient’ in your units – it’s only by understanding this that you’ll be able to control the risks of change.

7. Assess for role creep

Many staff will have accrued additional responsibilities when teams and their priorities have changed. Opportunities to develop can keep colleagues enthusiastic about coming to work, but make sure job descriptions are an accurate reflection of what people actually do. Ultimately, proper job evaluation ensures staff are rewarded fairly and and protects employers against equal pay claims. You’ll need robust internal processes and regular checks that job evaluation is consistent. Where someone has taken a real step up, you should probe for re-banding possibilities.

8. Respond to the human cost of pay restraint

NHS pay policy has meant a real-terms cut of around 12% since 2010. This will be a concern for most staff, but it may mean extreme hardship for some, with all the health and wellbeing issues that come with that. Understanding the impact of lost pay on your staff will help you give the right support and advice.

9. Find out why people are leaving

The most common reason for leaving recorded by the NHS is ‘resignation - other’. Consider digging into this – you could ask a specific question in exit interviews (e.g. “were there any reasons associated with your pay, terms or conditions that were a factor in your decision to leave the team/organisation?”) or follow up after people have left.

10. Finally, get the basics right

Yes it’s basic stuff, but making sure staff are paid accurately can make a difference. For example, miscalculations with holiday pay are really common – and fixing them is a fairly easy way of demonstrating honesty and goodwill.

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