NHS Flexible Workforce Debate

The Agency Workers Directive

The issue at the top of the agenda was of course the Agency Workers Directive (AWD) which is due for implementation in October 2011. With the current National Framework Agreement for the supply of Medical Locums (operated by PASA / Buying Solutions) ending in July 2011 a new framework needs to be drawn up soon. However in order to do this a detailed understanding of the effects of the AWD must be gained by all involved therefore a key aim of the forum was to gain a common understanding of what regulatory challenges will mean in practice

The Agency Workers Directive is a piece of legislation designed by the European Community to protect the rights of low paid agency workers (it has not been designed for high earners within a flexible workforce). The legislation will give agency workers the same pay, terms and conditions of employment, maternity / paternity benefits as workers who are permanent employees of a client company. These employment rights are either given:

  • As soon as the agency worker starts working for the client, OR
  • After a certain length of time known as the ‘derogation period’ (agreed to be 12 weeks by the CBI, TUC and the Government).

The healthcare sector in the United Kingdom engages roughly 10% of the total 1.3 million agency workers estimated across the UK. Over the past few years this percentage has been reportedly reduced, however spending by the NHS on agency workers still accounts for a significant proportion of the overall wage bill.

Healthcare organisations rely heavily on flexible workers to maintain service standards & ensure delivery at times of peak service pressure. The NHS wishes to maintain a flexible workforce however it wants to do so at an appropriate cost (especially in the light of expected cuts in public expenditure, see below). The AWD may lead to greater costs for the NHS therefore research and detailed planning must be undertaken to get the best deal for the NHS.

Public Sector Expenditure Cuts

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation and NHS Employers have announced that they have commissioned a report to gain a general outlook for flexible staffing within the National Health Service in light of expected cuts in public sector expenditure.

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