NHS Job Evaluation Handbook - Second Edition

This handbook outlines the new Job Evaluation Scheme purposely developed for the National Health Service as part of the new pay system, Agenda for Change

NHS Job Evaluation Handbook

1. Introduction to Job Evaluation

1. The background: NHS pay structures before Agenda for Change

1.1 Collective bargaining arrangements and associated pay structures have changed relatively little in the 50 years from the creation of the National Health Service in 1948. In line with industrial relations practice in the public sector in the immediate post-war period, there was an over-arching joint negotiating body for the sector, the General Whitley Council, and more than 20 individual joint committees and sub-committees for the different occupational groups, each with responsibility for its own grading and pay structures, and terms and conditions of employment.

1.2 Some developments had occurred, mainly from the early 1980s onwards, in response to increasing tensions within this system, for example:

  • Reviews of individual grading structures. The most well known of these (largely because of the high number of appeals generated) was the introduction of the Clinical Grading Structure for Nurses and Midwives, from April 1988, which brought in the current grades A to I. There were other grading structure reviews in the late 1980s and early 1990s which covered, e.g. Estates Officers, Speech and Language Therapists, and Hospital Pharmacists. There was no attempt to undertake cross-Whitley Committee reviews.
  • The introduction of independent pay review bodies for Doctors and Dentists (1971), and Nursing Staff, Midwives, Health Visitors and Professions Allied to Medicine (1984). These took evidence from all relevant parties and recommended annual pay increases. They replaced the traditional collective bargaining approach, which was considered to have delivered unsatisfactory pay levels for some key public sector groups, but had no remit to compare pay from one group to another (even among their remit groups). Staff groups not covered by pay review bodies continued to use collective bargaining over pay increases but these increasingly followed the pay review body settlements.
  • Changes to health service legislation from 1992. These changes allowed trusts to develop their own terms and conditions and to apply these to new and promoted employees, although existing employees could choose to retain their Whitley terms and conditions. Most trust terms and conditions `shadowed' the relevant Whitley arrangements in most respects, but a small number of trusts introduced totally new pay and grading structures and other terms and conditions. These were generally based on the various commercial job evaluation systems available at the time, e.g. Medequate, Hay.

1.3 The result, by the mid-1990s, was a mixture of grading and pay systems, with some significant defects:

  • Difficulty in accommodating developing jobs, such as healthcare assistants, operating department practitioners (ODPs); and multi-disciplinary team members, who might be carrying out similar roles, but whose salaries could vary significantly, depending on the occupational background of the jobholders.
  • Inability to respond quickly to technological developments and changes to work organisation even where these were agreed by all concerned to be desirable.
  • Inability to respond to external labour market pressures, causing severe recruitment and retention problems in some areas. Additional increments, which could be applied flexibly to meet such pressures, were introduced into a number of the major Whitley structures, but these were insufficient to solve the problems.
  • From a union perspective, it was also the case that the Whitley system was viewed as having delivered low pay relative to other parts of the public sector and unequal pay as between the various Whitley groups.

2. The equality background

2.1 Health service pay structures and relativities were thus well established long before the advent of UK anti-discrimination legislation. Although professional and managerial groups benefited from negotiations following a 1948 Royal Commission on Equal Pay to achieve equal pay between men and women carrying out the same work, female ancillary staff were paid lower rates than their male colleagues until the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1970, which made such practices illegal. As was allowed by the Equal Pay Act, the gap between male and female ancillary pay rates was eliminated in stages between 1970 and 1975.

2.2 However, as the Equal Pay Act only applied in situations where women and men were undertaking:

  • 'like work', that is, the same or very similar work (who were already generally receiving equal pay)
  • 'work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation scheme' (only ancillary workers in the health service were covered by job evaluation)

it had little impact elsewhere in the health service.

2.3 From 1984, the Equal Pay Act was amended to allow equal pay claims where the applicant considered that she was carrying out:

  • 'work of equal value' (when compared 'under headings such as effort, skill and decision') to a higher paid male colleague.

2.4 In 1986 and 1987 over a thousand speech and language therapists submitted equal value claims under this provision seeking to compare their work with that of clinical psychologists and hospital pharmacists. The employing health authorities and the Secretary of State for Health put forward the argument that the separate collective bargaining arrangements covering each of these groups, if operated without discrimination, provided a defence to equal pay claims. This defence was contested on behalf of the applicants through the various stages of the legal appeal procedure to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In 1993 the ECJ ruled [ Enderby v Frenchay Health Authority and Secretary of State for Health (1993) IRLR 571 ECJ] that separate collective bargaining arrangements did not of themselves provide a defence to equal pay claims.

2.5 A set of around 20 test cases was agreed for reference to the Independent Experts appointed by the Industrial (now Employment) Tribunal. Expert witnesses for the parties also produced reports on whether or not the jobs of each of the test case applicants was of equal value to those of their male comparator(s). Three cases were actually heard by the Tribunal, which found in favour of the Applicant in each case. The remaining cases (around 400, the others having been withdrawn) were settled on the basis of the Tribunal decisions.

2.6 The Equal Pay Act confines the scope of an equal claim to within 'the same employment'. This was initially understood as meaning the same employer in the public sector. Because of this, the speech and language therapist applicants all selected comparators employed by the same health authority as themselves. However, an appeal case in 1996 [ Scullard v Knowles [1996] IRLR 344 EAT] indicated that the scope of claims was wider than this in the public sector and could relate to the 'same service' where certain conditions applied. Following this, at least one Tribunal has determined that it is possible to select a comparator from another trust in the health service [ Hayes & Quinn v Mancunian Community NHS Trust and South Manchester Health Authority (16977, 16981/93)]. These decisions have influenced the nature of the Agenda for Change proposals.

3. The first Job Evaluation Working Party

3.1 The first Job Evaluation Working Party (known retrospectively as JEWP I) was set up in the mid-1990s to review those job evaluation schemes introduced in the health service following the 1992 health reform legislation. Its stated aim was to develop a 'kitemarking' system for those meeting equality requirements.

3.2 JEWP I developed a set of criteria for what would make a fair and non-discriminatory scheme for use in the health service and tested a number of schemes against these criteria. None met all the criteria, but some were better than others.

3.3 The Working Party also evaluated an agreed list of jobs against each of six of the schemes to ascertain whether or not they would deliver similar outcomes. There were some significant differences in the resulting rank orders. JEWP I, therefore, concluded that it was not possible to 'kitemark' schemes for health service use, but it would be necessary to develop a tailor-made scheme.

4. The Agenda for Change proposals

In 1999, the Government published a paper Agenda for Change: Modernising the NHS pay system. The proposals set out in that paper included:

  • A single job evaluation scheme to cover all jobs in the health service to support a review of pay and all other terms and conditions for health service employees.
  • Three pay spines for (1) doctors and dentists; (2) other professional groups covered by the Pay Review Body; (3) remaining non-Pay Review Body staff.
  • A wider remit for the Pay Review Body covering the second of these pay spines.

5. The development of the NHS Job Evaluation Scheme

5.1 Following the publication of Agenda for Change: Modernising the NHS pay system the Job Evaluation Working Party was re-constituted (JEWP II) as one of a number of technical sub-groups of the Joint Secretariat Group (JSG), which was itself a sub-committee of the Central Negotiation Group of employer, union and Department of Health representatives set up to negotiate new health service grading and pay structures.

5.2 The stages in developing the NHS Job Evaluation Scheme were as follows:

(1) Identification of draft factors. This part of the exercise drew on the work of JEWP I in comparing the schemes in use in the health service.

(2) Testing of draft factors. This was done using a sample of around 100 jobs for which volunteer jobholders were asked to complete a relatively open-ended questionnaire, providing information under each of the draft factor headings and any other information about their jobs which they felt was not covered by the draft factors. As a result of this exercise the draft factors were refined.

(3) Development of factor levels. The information collected during the initial test exercise was used by JEWP, working in small joint teams, to identify and define draft levels of demand for each factor.

(4) Testing of draft factor plan. A benchmark sample of around 200 jobs was drawn up, with two or three individuals being selected for each job to complete a more specific factor-based questionnaire, with the assistance of trained job analysts, to ensure that the information provided was accurate and comprehensive.

(5) Completed questionnaires were evaluated by trained joint panels. The outcomes were reviewed by JEWP members. The validated results were input to a computer database.

(6) Scoring and weighting. The job evaluation results database was used to test various scoring and weighting options considered by a joint JSG/JEWP group.

(7) Guidance Notes. Provisional guidance notes to assist evaluators and matching panel members to apply the factor level definitions to jobs consistently were drafted for the benchmark exercise. These were greatly expanded as a result of the benchmark evaluation exercise and have continued to be developed as a successive training and profiling have taken place.

(8) Computerisation. The scale of the exercise to implement the NHS Job Evaluation Scheme meant that it was essential to consider how it could be assisted by computerisation. Link HR Systems were commissioned to adapt their existing computer-aided job evaluation scheme for the purpose and to develop a computerised tool to assist in the process of matching local jobs to the evaluated national benchmark sample.

6. Equality features of the scheme

6.1 As one of the reasons for NHS pay modernisation was to ensure equal pay for work of equal value, it was crucial that every effort was made to ensure that the NHS Job Evaluation Scheme was fair and non-discriminatory in both design and implementation.

6.2 The equality criteria drawn up by JEWP I were developed into a checklist. As the exercise progressed, its stages were compared with the checklist and a compliance report drafted. The final section of the checklist concerned statistical analysis and monitoring of both the benchmark exercise and the final outcomes. This is ongoing.

6.3 The equality features of the NHS Job Evaluation Scheme design include:

  • A sufficiently large number of factors to ensure that all significant job features can be fairly measured.
  • Inclusion of specific factors to ensure that features of predominantly female jobs are fairly measured, for example Communication and Relationship Skills, Physical Skills, Responsibilities for Patients/Clients, Emotional Effort.
  • Avoidance of references in the factor level definitions to features which might operate in an indirectly discriminatory manner for example direct references to qualifications under the Knowledge factor, references to tested skills under the Physical Skills factor.
  • Scoring and weighting designed in accordance with a set of gender neutral principles, rather than with the aim of achieving a particular outcome, for example all Responsibility factors are equally weighted to avoid one form of responsibility been viewed as more important than others.

Equality features of the implementation procedures include:

  • A detailed matching procedure to ensure that all jobs have been compared to the national benchmark profiles on an analytical basis, in accordance with the Court of Appeal decision in the case of Bromley v Quick.
  • Training in equality issues and the avoidance of bias for all matching panel members, job analysts and evaluators.
  • A detailed Job Analysis Questionnaire to ensure that all relevant information is available for local evaluations.
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