New Flexible Working Arrangements for NHS Staff

Priscilla Lynch 

June 30, 2021

A new agreement on ​​new flexible working rights aimed at giving NHS staff a better work-life balance has been announced.

The NHS Staff Council, on behalf of NHS trade unions and employers, has jointly agreed revisions to Section 33 of the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook, which will include a new day one right to request flexible working.

The contractual changes will take effect on 13 September 2021 in England and Wales, with similar provisions expected to follow in Northern Ireland. Scotland will introduce these changes in line with its ongoing ‘Once for Scotland’ Workforce Policies Programme.

The new contractual terms mean workers will be able to make unlimited flexible working requests, not need to justify the requests to employers and will be eligible for flexible working arrangements from the first day of their employment.

There are also new requirements for better centralised oversight of processes to ensure greater consistency of access to flexible working. This includes an escalation stage for circumstances where a line manager is not initially able to agree a request.

Employers will be expected to promote flexibility options at the point of recruitment and through regular staff engagement through one-to-ones, appraisals, and team discussions.

Chair of the health unions on the NHS staff council and UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: "The pandemic has put so much strain on the lives of NHS workers that many are re-evaluating their priorities. Rigid shifts and long hours mean staff often miss out on valuable quality time with family or the chance to pursue outside interests.

"Some choose to take ​on agency or bank work because ​that allows them to control how ​they arrange their lives. But this also mean​s losing out on pay, job security, career opportunities and other benefits of being part of the ​NHS.

"Flexible working does happen in the NHS, but this new agreement will make it a more realistic option for staff in all roles. ​However, it will only be effective if chronic staff shortages issues are addressed ​too."

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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