This guide will give you all the relevant information you need to understand how things work in the UK so that you can consider your priorities and make an informed decision on whom to work for. If you are thinking of migrating to the UK to work as a nurse, you have two options. One of which is to work for the NHS hospitals, and the second option is to work for private employers such as a Nursing home or a private hospital.
Area of work
As a Nurse, if your experience is in one area such as ICU and you would like to work in the UK only as an ICU nurse, then the NHS hospitals are the way to go as it suits you better. If your experience is wide and in different areas of nursing you can potentially work for a care home.
Read below if you want to know more about the benefits NHS hospitals and Nursing Homes offer whilst you are working for them as a staff nurse.
How much do Staff Nurses earn in the UK?
To compare well, throughout this guide assume that you work 42 hours per week either for the NHS or for the nursing home.
Generally speaking your offer letter from the NHS would be in an annual salary structure. If you want to compare it to a private employer such as private hospitals or nursing homes, it would be difficult because their offer letter would be in an hourly pay structure.
So, I assume your NHS contracted hours are 42 per week, working full time, which means you are able to work 52 weeks in a year contract and your contract term is three years.
Out country application contracts in the NHS for nurses start at Band 4 which means, anyone coming from abroad as a nurse will be on Band 4 prior to obtaining the registration with NMC and once they have successfully completed the OSCE, the band would be increased to 5.
Your offer letter comes with £23,761.00 per year for a band 4 nurse and £24,214.00 as a band 5 nurse. Your hourly pay with NHS will be £10.87 before you qualify OSCE and £11.08 per hour after clearing OSCE and getting NMC PIN.
We can discuss the NHS nurses band and benefits and salary of different bands in a different video and you can find it in our UK Nurses playlist.
Private employers pay you £9.65 per hour before passing the OSCE and after clearing OSCE and getting NMC PIN, they pay normally £15.00 per hour and your gross annual income will be £32,760.00 for the first year. During the second year, the hourly rate of pay increases to £17.00 per hour, and the annual gross income would be £37,128.00. Whereas NHS pay remains the same, £11.08 and as a band 5 nurse your gross annual salary would be £24,214.00.
Nurses who work for a nursing home or care home earn £8,546.00 more in the first year and £12,914.00 more in the second and third years respectively, compared to NHS and a total of £34,374.00 during the three year contract period.
There had been a pay cap of 1% for NHS nurses, which means nurses would only get approximately £0.11 pence per hour. However, the cap is being lifted this year and the yearly increase will be 1.7% equivalent to £0.18 pence going forward each year. Whereas, in the nursing homes you have a yearly appraisal of your pay.
Nurses Overtime Pay in the UK
You can do overtime in the NHS as well as in the Nursing homes in the UK. The NHS will pay time and a half for overtime of your standard rate which is £11.08, after clearing OSCE. You will be paid double time for working on bank holidays, and Sundays you get paid 60% more of your standard rate, which is £17.72. In the Nursing home, it is paid as standard rate of pay of £15.00 for every hour you work and after completing first year you are paid £17.00 an hour, overtime is also paid at the same rate.
Enhanced pay such as overtime, Sundays and bank holidays have huge demand among the staff nurses in the NHS. The NHS has to treat all their staff fairly and therefore overtime hours have to be distributed among the staff equally.
For instance, If a ward has 36 hours of short staff hours which is overtime to cover a week, and has 16 staff nurses, it will be divided among the staff, so each staff member technically gets 2.25 hours. It is not practical to give 2.25 hours in a week per staff nurse, so it would be allocated to 3 staff as 12 hours of shifts. If 36 hours are available every week due to short staff, NHS are unable to cover those hours with contracted hours among their staff therefore, NHS issues overtime. In essence, the first three staff who did overtime have to wait 6 weeks, 8 weeks or even more to get their turn to do overtime again.
Pension pay in the UK for Nurses
When it comes to Pension contribution, irrespective of private or public employers, it is a mandatory regulation by the government that the employer pays 3% of gross income towards the employees pension contribution.
How does pension payment work? Employees need to contribute 5% of their gross monthly salary towards the pension and the employer has to contribute 3% of the employee’s gross monthly income. For example, if you are working 42 hours in a nursing home, you get paid £2750.00 gross income in a month, £137.50 will be deducted from your salary towards your pension contribution and employer contributes £82.50 towards your pension totaling £220.00 for the month. Your income is higher in the nursing home thus the pension contribution you get from the employer would be higher.
Compared to a nursing home, you would earn only £2020.00 a month less £730.00 the same hours worked for the NHS. Your pension contribution towards pension is £101.00 and NHS contributes £60.00 to a total pension contribution of £161.00 and the difference is £59.00 per month.
Pension is a long term contribution made by you and your employer each month. Therefore £59.00 has an enormous impact on the lump sum of the pension you get when you retire.
Nurses Statutory Maternity Leave in the UK
In the UK all employed pregnant women are entitled to 52 weeks or 1 year of maternity leave. 52 weeks of maternity leave is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave no matter if you are working for the NHS or a private employer.
In addition, you can avail at least 15 weeks before your due date and your employer must write to you by law within 28 days confirming your start and end dates of your maternity leave. Besides, your employment rights are protected whilst on Statutory Maternity Leave, this includes your right to Pay rises, build up annual leave and avail it for return to work.
In the NHS, your maternity pay is calculated on the basis of your average weekly earnings for the 8 weeks ending with the qualifying week, which is the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth. Gross earnings are taken into consideration, including banding.
Under the NHS scheme, you are entitled to 8 weeks of full pay and 18 weeks of half pay, then a further 13 weeks of Statutory maternity pay, leaving 13 weeks of unpaid maternity leave if you wish to take the full 52 weeks of maternity leave.
Private employers on the other hand pay you 90% during the initial 6 weeks, and from 7 till 39 weeks would pay you SMP at £151.20 per week. Week 39 to 52 is not paid if you choose to take that period as maternity leave. Statutory maternity pay or SMP amount is £151.20 per week irrespective of NHS or private employer.
If you take 26 weeks of maternity leave in other words 6.2 months of maternity leave, the first six weeks difference between NHS and nursing home is £465.00 and £567.00 respectively. The remaining 20 weeks, nursing homes will pay £151.20 per week and NHS will pay £232.00. This means the difference is an extra £1463.00 per child for the NHS staff.
However, after clearing the OSCE your hourly pay will have £4.00 difference in the first year and £6.00 in the second year is a great financial gain you have working with the private employer. Care homes pay £12,914.00 more compared to the NHS, from second year owenwords. Therefore, getting £1463.00 maternity pay per child compared to almost £13,000.00 is not a financial gain.
Paid holidays in the UK as a Nurse
In the UK 28 days paid holiday/ annual leave entitlement is the legal minimum whether you are working for NHS or for the nursing home. NHS staff’s entitlement to annual leave will increase from 28 days to 29 days once an employee has 5 years NHS service, and again to 33 days when they achieve 10 years NHS service whereas in the Nursing homes staff gets 39.2 days of annual leave every year.
Sick Pay for Nurses in the UK
Working for the NHS, you get 6 days in a year for absenteeism with sickness and you will get the salary. Whereas, private employers will not pay you for sick leaves. However, working for nursing homes you get an extra 11.2 days of annual leave each year. Hence, you can easily cover your sick days with these extra hours if needed.
Alternatively you can cover your absenteeism with income protection insurance if you are willing to avail the insurance. It is sensible to consider income protection if :
You are not in a position to meet your expenses when you get sick
You can not pay your bills with government benefits, that is the Employment and Support Allowance pays paid to you between £74.35 and £113.551 a week
Your employer won’t pay you when you are sick
You are a single income household member
You are the main income earner for your family.
We can discuss income protection insurance and its benefits for the nurses in the UK in a different video and you can find it in our UK Nurses playlist. Click on the link below to know whether you are an eligible candidate or get the quote.