In their joint statement on 11 November 2013 employers and trades unions from the ambulance service confirmed their agreement to hold “genuine and constructive talks on what unsocial hours arrangements should apply during sickness absence, including the potential application of Section 2 and options to change Annex E.” Terms of Reference would be agreed setting out the scope, key dates and reporting mechanisms for the negotiations, which would be concluded by 1 February 2014.
As a gesture of goodwill, employers agreed that if positive progress was made by 1 December 2013, September deductions would be repaid in December.
Employers and the trade unions met on 27 November to agree the scope of the work required during the talks. All parties re-stated a commitment to develop proposals for consultation, recognising that the status quo is not sustainable in the long term.
Formal terms of reference have been set, a central negotiating group has been established, and a set of dates for future meetings has been agreed. The talks will include exploration of whether and how Section 2 (a) (England) of The NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook could be applied in the Ambulance service in England, and/or potential amendments to Annex E.
Unsocial hours payments deducted from salaries in October (in respect of staff sickness absences in September) will be repaid in December salaries.
The central working group has agreed that joint statements will be issued after each meeting. Its members will report back to the NHS Staff Council at regular intervals.