RCM research MSW pay banding and job evaluation

By Alice Sorby, RCM Employment Relations Advisor on 26 November 2019 MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Pay and Agenda For Change

During MSW week 2018 the RCM held a series of study days for Maternity Support Workers. At these events MSWs were consistently asking us if we thought it was ‘ok’ that they were carrying out certain tasks and responsibilities whilst being paid at a band 2. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to learn and do a wide variety of tasks as part of their job, the vast majority of MSWs love what they do. Some however did feel nervous and ill equipped to take on such levels of responsibility for women and babies. We should also remember that the recent Framework Agreement for NHS staff employed under Agenda for Change closed band 1, meaning that these MSWs are now actually employed at the lowest level in the NHS.

We have suspected for some time through anecdotal evidence that the NHS Job Evaluation Scheme is not being used properly in certain areas. Job evaluation underpins the entire Agenda for Change pay structure and ensures equal pay for work of equal value. Every job description that is created for Agenda for Change staff must go through a job matching process. This process should be done in partnership by a panel including employers and staff side representatives employed in the NHS trust/health board. The job matching process assigns a pay band to a job, the evidence that this exercise has taken place is the job matching analysis. Both the job description and job matching analysis document should be kept by NHS trusts/health boards as an audit trail, this evidence is crucial to demonstrate equal pay.

For MSW week 2019 we wanted to show that we have taken our member’s concerns seriously and to have some quantifiable evidence. To do this we sent a freedom of information (FOI) request earlier this year to NHS trusts and health boards across the UK. The FOI requested that they return job descriptions and the accompanying job matching information for MSWs. This was to establish whether each job description has been through the job matching process and to examine what roles and responsibilities feature on MSW job descriptions.

The results of the FOI are summarised here.

Band 2

87 NHS trusts/health boards provided band 2 clinical MSW job descriptions. 50% of these did not provide the accompanying job matching analysis. England performed the worst with 57% and 50% in Wales. In Scotland and Northern Ireland 100% did provide the job matching analysis. There was also a lack of dates on job descriptions, in England only 41% were dated. We saw five job descriptions that were over ten years old.

Band 3

100 NHS trusts/health boards provided band 3 clinical MSW job descriptions. 41% did not provide the accompanying job matching analysis. England again was worst with 48% unable to provide the accompanying job matching analysis. Scotland and Wales both provided all of the requested documents and Northern Ireland provided 75%. 48% of the job descriptions were dated and six of the job descriptions were more than ten years old.

Band 4.

22 NHS trusts/health boards provided band 4 clinical MSW job descriptions. Of the 22 job descriptions four did not provide the accompanying job matching analysis (all England). Nine of the job descriptions were dated (41%) and five were ten or more years old.

These results have highlighted just how widespread poor job evaluation practice has become, particularly for MSWs at band 2, the lowest paid members of staff.

We reviewed a random sample of the band 2 job descriptions that had been sent to us. Of the seventeen job descriptions, eight had provided the job matching analysis but fourteen included tasks which should not be undertaken by a band 2 MSW. These included feeding new-borns through their nose, known as nasogastric feeding, observations on women such as temperature, blood pressure and pulse and observations on new-born babies. They also report being asked to insert intravenous lines and remove urinary catheters. These tasks require a level three or above qualification in order to be carried out safely by MSWs but this is often not a requirement in the job descriptions or person specifications. This review has shown that even where job matching has taken place, the job evaluation process has not been properly carried out.

If you are an RCM member and you are concerned you are inappropriately pay banded please do speak to your Workplace Representative who is your first port of call to challenge bad practice. If you do not have a Workplace Representative you can call the RCM on 0300 303 0444.  The RCM will continue to campaign nationally on the importance of the NHS Job Evaluation Scheme both amongst midwives and MSWs but employers as well. We will also work in partnership with other NHS trade unions to increase the number of trained job evaluators.