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FCS Briefing - COVID-19

20/04/2020 16:03:55


Special provisions during COVID-19 emergency

A bit of a cliché but these are indeed unprecedented times for the NHS.  You are being asked to perform new tasks and work in ways and for hours which may not reflect your usual way of working. All of this is at a time when we all have new responsibilities for looking after the health of ourselves and our families. These responses to the changing situation have been, because they need to be, happening very quickly. From a staff perspective therefore, it is important to ensure consistency and clarity on how national terms and conditions reflect the necessary nature of the COVID-19 pandemic response and the reliance on our staff (including the novel groups of returning-retired and students nearing the end of training) at this difficult time.


NHS Staff Council unions and NHS Employers have agreed a number of temporary changes to Agenda for Change and continue to work on more. They will be regularly reviewed during the COVID-19 emergency period and as new issues arise. NHS Employers are publishing these as regular updates which can be found here:





The overriding principle is to ensure that staff do not feel pressured to work if they become unwell and to ensure as much flexibility is provided wherever possible to ensure physical and mental health is maintained. This will ensure the workforce is well equipped to help in the fight against COVID-19.



Some key points of the emergency arrangements are:

  • Sickness/Isolation
    • Self isolation must be recorded as special leave with full pay and should not affect any local special leave policies.
    • Self isolation should not be discouraged even if staff members have had multiple episodes of isolation
    • Sickness due to COVID-19 should not count towards sickness policy triggers
    • Where colleagues are able to work from home, i.e. they are isolating but still working, there is no requirement to record this as special leave or absence on e-rostering or ESR, as the member of staff is still working, albeit from a different location.
  • Additional work
    • All staff working additional hours should seek the prior approval of their line manager.
    • For staff in band 8 and 9 there is no entitlement to overtime at the time of writing but this is being looked at as a priority.
      • Local organisations can however make a decision to pay overtime rates if they deem this appropriate
      • Further national talks are ongoing around this
      • Note: In Northern Ireland and enabling order has been made, effective from 01 April to 30 June.


  • Bank Holiday Working
    • There is no national directive that bank holidays are cancelled. Therefore if required to work bank holidays you should be paid at the appropriate rate and receive time off in lieu.
  • Annual Leave
    • Any planned leave should be taken where there is no impact on safety and care of patients
    • Any decision to cancel or delay requests for annual leave should be given very careful consideration and only be as a last resort
    • Where employees cannot use their full entitlement of annual leave because of the pandemic, maximum flexibilities will be put in place to allow up to 20 days untaken annual leave to be carried over to the next two leave years.

        • if employees cannot take bank holidays off due to COVID-19, they should use the annual leave at a later date in their leave year
        • if this is not possible, bank holidays can be included in the 20 days’ annual leave that can be carried over. This holiday can be taken at any time over a two-year period.


  • Pay progression
    • There is no change to the pay progression system. Staff in post prior to 01 April 2019 will, under the new pay progression system, move to their new pay point up to 01 April 2021.
  • Mandatory training
    • For current employees who have not changed roles and have previously undertaken mandatory training refresher training should be suspended for the duration on COVID-19. Not completing this training will not impact pay progression.


Further, regularly updated FAQs can be found here.


This journey may be a long-haul. Whilst there is an instinct to “get stuck in” FCS would remind members and service managers to look to sustainability of arrangements and the well-being of themselves and those they are responsible for. Sick or exhausted staff are useless. Lots of you will be working under new stresses so stay tolerant, flexible and supportive to colleagues.


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