View the article online at http://citywire.co.uk/money/article/a883154
NHS challenged over cash-for-pension offers to nurses
Unions have complained to regulators about an NHS trust offering nurses higher pay if they opt out of their pension scheme.
The NHS could be referred to the Pensions Regulator (TPR) over accusations some health trusts are offering staff cash inducements to give up their pension.
The NHS Pension Board is weighing referring Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust in south London to TPR because it offers staff higher pay in return for opting out of an auto-enrolment scheme, according to the Financial Times.
This could be in breach of auto-enrolment rules which prevent employers from offering staff higher pay as an incentive for opting out of an auto-enrolment scheme.
The Financial Times reports Oxleas offers new nurses a higher salary by paying them money directly that would have been paid into the NHS pension scheme. Nurses must opt out of the scheme in order to receive the higher pay deal.
Unions are concerned the deal may be repeated by other NHS trusts.
Nicola Lee, employment relations adviser at the Royal College of Nursing, said staff may not be aware of the impact of opting out of the pension scheme in return for a higher salary.
'There are concerns about the impact on members of staff, if they are not properly advised about the long-term consequences of opting out of a pension plan that provides both income in retirement and life assurance benefits,' she said.
Oxleas NHS Trust said the main purpose of the pay offer was not to make savings but to offer a rate to compete with nursing agencies.
'We acknowledge that many nurses have different priorities and needs at different times in their lives and in January 2016, we began to offer a choice of a new rate of pay, that we hope will encourage nurses to come and work for us, rather than agencies,' it said.
'The Trust makes no direct savings through staff opting for the new rate of pay.'
TPR said it would not comment on individual cases, but added that when employers offer staff a 'free and fair choice' about choosing a package it would not always amount to inducement.
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