2.5% pay rise for staff is 'voluntary'

GPs do not have to pay the 2.5 per cent Agenda for Change (AfC) pay award, the DoH has confirmed.

The statement followed comments from health secretary Patricia Hewitt that GPs should share practice profits with their staff (GP, 5 May).

NHS Employers said the 2.5 per cent award applied to staff, including administrators equivalent to practice managers and receptionists, who were not covered by a similar rise for nurses announced in March.

Alastair Henderson, deputy director of NHS Employers, said: 'This should enable the new rates to be paid to staff in their June pay packages.'

When asked whether practices would receive global sum increases to pay the awards, a DoH spokesman said: 'Agenda for Change is voluntary in general practice.

'However, the expectation is that practices will ensure the employment standards comply with good human resources practice, in line with AfC principles, as set out in the new GMS contract.'

A spokeswoman for NHS Employers was unable to say whether there would be any retrospective increase to 2006/7 global sums to cover the AfC award.

However, GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said primary care organisations had not included any extra funding for AfC increases in global sums.

'We have always said GPs have to be aware of AfC but they are not under any obligation to pay it,' he said.

'The GPC does not tell GPs how or what to pay their staff it just makes them aware of the current situation.'

Dr Meldrum referred GPs to the BMA's Focus on Agenda for Change and Practice Staff.

This states two exceptions to the general rule that practices are not obliged to pay AfC rates.

The first is where a PMS practice has previously agreed to this and the second is where a staff member's contract specifically states that they will receive AfC rates.

It adds: 'In addition, if the contract says that the member of staff will be paid according to national terms and conditions, then this may be regarded implicitly as referring to AfC if it is accepted that AfC is recognisable as the national terms and conditions.'

The GPC guidance also says: 'Practices may still choose to use the Agenda for Change guidelines (after consultation with their staff) particularly when deciding on staff pay rises, as a recruitment and retention tool and/or to motivate staff.'

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