Low-income NHS staff paying the price for wage delays 


Government delays on NHS pay have resulted in thousands of the lowest-paid health workers being removed from financial schemes aimed at making their travel to work and childcare bills more affordable, says UNISON today (July 2, 2024).

With the lowest hourly rate in the NHS now just a penny more than the national minimum wage, the union says Trust managers are having to curtail membership of so-called salary sacrifice schemes for many staff.

This is because many workers’ hourly rates fall below the legal minimum when money is removed from pay packets and put towards the cost of, for example, cycle-to-work schemes, nursery vouchers or hospital parking permits.

NHS staff were due a pay rise three months ago, says UNISON. But failure to deliver this annual wage increase on time has left some hospital managers with no option but to withdraw membership of the schemes, for fear of breaking UK wage laws. This means that many porters, healthcare assistants, cleaners and 999 call handlers can no longer access support schemes they’ve used for years to help spread or bring down the cost of their spending. Yet these work-related benefits are still available to higher-paid colleagues, leaving those least well-off taking a severe financial hit.

One Healthcare Assistant told the union: “These perks are supposed to help workers, but band 2 staff aren’t able to access them. It really adds to the sense of feeling undervalued.”

UNISON is calling on NHS employers to do all they can to find ways around the problem and help affected staff. Some Trusts have found ways to increase employees’ salaries locally to avoid problems, or have waived fees. Others are losing staff as they quit for higher paid jobs outside the NHS.

UNISON’s head of health Helga Pile says: “No worker should miss out on schemes put in place to help them financially. This is especially key in the NHS, which is already many thousands of staff short.

“Not only are low-paid but essential health workers missing out on benefits that come with the job, they’re now going to be forking out even more on childcare, season tickets and parking.

“To make matters worse, this could have been avoided had the government done the right thing and agreed a decent pay rise on time. Staff deserve far better. So do patients and the millions of people awaiting the start of their treatment.

“Improving pay across the NHS must be high up the list for the next government. Put simply this is because better pay will help stop health workers leaving their jobs for more lucrative roles elsewhere. It will also attract more people to work in the NHS. Both are crucial if waits and delays are ever to diminish.

“Until then NHS Trusts must do all they can to lessen the hardship for those on the lowest wage rates and now paying a heavy price.” 

Have Your Say

There are currently no comments for this article