Within the context of many NHS jobs, continuous service (sometimes called reckonable service) is an important consideration for employees. For example, calculating the length of continuous service will have an impact on eligibility for maternity pay, sick pay and redundancy pay.
How are NHS continuous service periods defined?
How continuous service is defined depends on the purpose it is being calculated for:
- Maternity pay: no more than three months between jobs with NHS organisations (including Northern Ireland Health Service), except for a small list of agreed exceptions such as being on maternity leave, employment as a locum GP for less than 12 months, undertaking full-time postgraduate study for less than 12 months, or volunteering overseas with a recognised charity for less than 12 months.
- Redundancy pay: to be eligible for redundancy pay, staff must have been continously employed by an NHS organisation (or any number of NHS organisations) for at least two years with no break of more than a week (Sunday to Saturday). Note that the size of any redundancy payment is determined slightly differently, by the length of reckonable service (as explained below).
- Sick pay: sick pay eligibility is also determined on the basis of reckonable service, which is explained below.
What is NHS reckonable service?
Calculations in relation to redundancy or sick pay often refer to “reckonable service”; the total length of reckonable service will increase the redundancy payment size. Reckonable service means the period of continous employment by NHS organisations, with no more than 12 months between jobs. A small number of non-NHS jobs are eligible to be included as reckonable service, such as the GP Trainee scheme.
Continuous service vs total length of service
It is sometimes (wrongly) assumed that continuous service also determines how much annual leave NHS staff are entitled to under Agenda for Change terms and conditions. However, this is not the case; annual leave is determined by total length of service, regardless of any gaps between jobs. For example, if someone had worked for an NHS organisation for two years, worked in the private sector for five years, and then worked a further three years back at another NHS organisation, they would have a total of five years NHS service, so would be eligible for an extra two days of annual leave (per Agenda for Change terms and conditions).