Promoting partnership working in the NHS

SPF Workforce Issues Group

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The Workforce Issues Group’s aim is to have a positive contribution to the development and implementation of policies that impact on the workforce, resulting in an improved working experience for NHS staff and better patient outcomes.

The group is involved in several, workforce related, policy areas. These include staff health and wellbeing, enabling staff movement, reviewing the NHS Constitution and Handbook, staff speaking up/raising concerns, and equality, diversity and inclusion. The group developed the creating a culture of civility, compassion and respect call to action and is supporting NHS England and NHS Improvement’s civility and respect work programme.

The group is chaired jointly by a representative from the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS trade unions.

Terms of reference

The latest terms of reference for the Workforce Issues Group were agreed in June 2021.

The Social Partnership Forum is committed to supporting staff through change. The SPF Staff Transfer Guide is an online toolkit designed and developed by the WIG, to support staff who are facing transfer to providers of NHS funded services in England.

The Workforce Issues Group has played a vital role in providing clarity on the New Fair Deal and, working with HM Treasury (HMT), produced a set of Frequently Asked Questions about the application of the New Fair Deal in the NHS for independent providers. These FAQs include information on which staff are covered by the New Fair Deal and the implications on independent providers where staff on the NHS Pension Scheme transfer to their organisation. In July 2017, the FAQs were updated by the SPF and the NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA). Download the latest version of the FAQs.

The New Fair Deal arrangements replaced the broad comparability and bulk transfer approach under 'old' Fair Deal. The New Fair Deal applies to all members of public service pension schemes that transfer out of the public sector under TUPE, and to staff that have previously transferred out of the public sector, and who have remained eligible for the 'old' Fair Deal protection. Staff that are subsequently transferred to a new employer are also protected under New Fair Deal.

The New Fair Deal does not apply to transfers within the public sector, such as Machinery of Government changes, which involve the transfer of staff from one part of government to another. Those transfers are covered by the Cabinet Office Statement of Practice on staff transfers – the Government is currently reconsidering this guidance in the light of the reforms to the main public service pension schemes.

In October 2013 HM Treasury (HMT) published guidance on how the New Fair Deal will operate across the public sector pension schemes. Following this the Department of Health produced guidance on how the Fair Deal Policy applies to the NHS Pension Scheme. This guidance is available via the NHS BSA and Government websites.

The Department of Health, working in partnership with the Workforce Issues Group produced: Reform of the Fair Deal policy, NHS Pension Scheme Guidance, which was published in May 2014. The NHS BSA has produced application forms for a Pension Direction and an Admin Code; a guide that informs employers of their legal obligations in respect of the NHS Pension Scheme and a NHS Pension Direction Factsheet. These are available on the NHS BSA website.

The NHS BSA has also produced a guide to administering the NHS Pension Scheme for independent sector providers and their employees and an application form for independent sector providers available on the following web page.

The Workforce Issues Group developed the terms of access to the NHS Pension Scheme for non-NHS organisations providing NHS Clinical Services (IPs), where they are delivering services under an APMS contract, or a contract entered into by a local authority pursuant to its functions under the 2006 Act relating to the improvement and protection of public health and which the Secretary of State agrees to treat as a qualifying contract for these purposes; or a NHS Standard Contract. This includes services procured under ‘Any Qualified Provider’ and covers both clinical and non-clinical staff delivering the clinical service. These arrangements came into force 1 April 2014. In April 2017, the terms of access were extended to cover IPs delivering services under an NHS standard sub-contract.

Under the arrangements, IPs can choose from two levels of access or maintain the default position where they comply with the New Fair Deal only as outlined above:

Level 1: Access for existing members: IPs are required to auto-enrol into the NHSPS:

• from the date of commencement as a NHSPS employing authority, all existing eligible staff who were entitled to participate in the NHSPS at any time in the previous 12 months, and

• from the date of recruitment, all new eligible staff who were entitled to participate in the NHSPS at any time in the 12 months before joining the IP. Staff should be ‘wholly or mainly’ engaged in NHS work to retain access

Level 2: Access for all eligible staff: IPs are required to offer access to all staff who are eligible to join the NHSPS and are ‘wholly or mainly’ engaged in NHS work.

For more information see the full outcome to the consultation on the 'National Health Service Pension Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2014' which ran from 2 December 2013 to 10 February 2014 available website.

Additionally the draft National Health Service Pension Scheme (Amendment no 2) Regulations currently out for consultation.

The Workforce Issues Group produced FAQs about the application of “access” in the NHS for independent providers.

The WIG carried out a review of progress with access arrangements to the NHS pension scheme (NHSPS) for independent providers delivering clinical services to NHS patients under NHS Standard Contracts. The review report was finalised in December 2015 and received ministerial approval in April 2016.

There are a number of recommendations in the review report including giving further consideration to how access to the NHSPS for independent providers might be achieved under different contractual mechanisms and to increase the awareness of the access arrangements amongst commissioners. The WIG is taking forward the recommendations coming out of the review.

Read the full report.