1.1 NHSScotland is a major employer in the public sector and it seeks to be exemplary in terms of employment practice while balancing service pressures against finite resources.
1.2 The Staff Governance Standard6 states that NHSScotland staff should be treated fairly and consistently. Additionally, as individuals, staff should feel valued and have the highest levels of employment security, and an assurance that fixed-term contracts are used appropriately. The workforce data that forms the evidence base for this document indicates an increase in fixed-term contracts year on year and the aim of this policy is to ensure that fixed-term contracts are only used where necessary and appropriate.
1.3 Historically, the growth in the use of fixed-term contracts within NHSScotland has been due, in part, to the need to manage change in a cost-effective manner and to protect the position of permanent staff. The increased incidence of fixed-term pilot projects has led to an increase in the use of fixed-term contracts, as has the increased incidence of externally-funded research projects and time-limited service developments. Change is a constant feature of the NHS and must therefore be managed in a more proactive, people-centred way, through improved workforce planning.
1.4 In addition to the need to ensure that fixed-term contracts are only used where necessary and appropriate, NHSScotland Boards must also ensure that those who are employed on fixed-term contracts are treated fairly, with equal access to development opportunities and are subject to the same or equivalent contractual terms and conditions as comparable permanent staff.
1.5 NHSScotland recognises that there are two key factors to achieving the appropriate use of fixed-term contracts. Firstly, NHSScotland Boards must have robust workforce plans and projections in place. Secondly, NHSScotland Boards must establish strict criteria on the use of fixed-term contracts, which include a needs assessment being carried out to identify whether the use of a fixed-term contract is necessary and appropriate in each individual case.
1.6 Local agreement on the usage of fixed-term contracts is essential. This Partnership Information Network (PIN) policy sets out:
- Clear principles and values on the use of fixed-term contracts;
- The legal and policy framework in which employment status is considered; and
- How robust workforce planning can aid discussion on the use of fixed-term contracts.
1.7 The PIN also includes a model policy on the use of fixed-term contracts for NHSScotland Boards, which will be the basis for reaching local agreement. Whilst Boards may wish to develop their own local policy, in partnership, on the use of fixed-term contracts, such local policy must either meet or exceed the provisions of this PIN policy.
Furthermore, NHSScotland Boards must, in partnership, monitor their use of fixed-term contracts on an ongoing basis with a view to ensuring the fair and consistent application of their local policy. Boards must review the policy regularly, to ensure that it remains fit for purpose, so as to enable them to demonstrate adherence to this PIN, and to the wider Staff Governance Standard7 as part of the national monitoring process.
Email: Darren Paterson
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