What is it?
A mutually agreed resignation scheme (MARS) is a form of voluntary severance which enables employees to apply for a financial package if they agree to leave their employment on voluntary terms.
How did MARS come about?
In September 2010, a national scheme was introduced with the aim of assisting employers to find a way of addressing the financial challenge facing the NHS.
The national scheme has now expired, but Trusts are able to run their own MARS. Any local agreement should follow the principles agreed by the NHS Staff Council, which are set out in Section 20 of the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook.
Who is eligible?
In principle, MARS is available to all staff groups, although local eligibility criteria will apply. Once an employee has taken the MARS package, his/her post would either not be replaced or filled by a substantive member of staff whose original job would not need to be replaced.
What are the potential pitfalls?
The money offered through MARS appears to be significantly less than would be available through the standard redundancy package offered in the terms and conditions of service.
Anyone applying for MARS should always check whether it would be more advantageous to use the standard redundancy option, if there is one. Paragraph 8 of Schedule 26 of the 2003 consultants’ terms and conditions sets out the calculation of a redundancy payment.
It is a lump sum based on one month’s pay for each year of reckonable service subject to a minimum of two years and a maximum of 24 years. The same arrangements apply to pre-2003 contract holders.
Further information on MARS, including details of the now-expired national scheme, can be found here.
My employer is introducing one of these schemes. What should I look out for in the detail?
Before you consider the detail remember this is a voluntary scheme and that there is no compulsion for you to take up the offer. If you don’t want to leave or don’t like any aspect of the deal – don’t take it up
However, if you are thinking of leaving, you may want to consider the deal because it offers money which you might otherwise not get.
If you are interested then we suggest you consider the following:
- How much money is being offered? It is likely to be significantly less than you would get through ordinary redundancy. If you stayed would you be made redundant anyway? If so, you would be likely to receive a bigger cash settlement
- Are there any restrictions on what you do once you have left? Some agreements may stipulate that you cannot work in the locality for a period of time after leaving your employer. Does this matter to you?
- What impact will this have on your continuous service? It is very likely that your continuous service would start again. Your continuous service determines entitlements set out in your employment contract and terms and conditions of service. Eligibility for maternity pay, redundancy pay and other employment rights are determined by continuous service. If you are planning on retiring this wouldn’t matter but if you plan on re-entering the service you may want to keep this in mind
- How would the service cope without you? Would your department be able to maintain a high quality service to patients? Is the trust making appropriate arrangements to limit the impact on patients and the future viability of the service?
- Are you eligible? Will you become ineligible soon if there is an upper age limit?
I'm still interested, what should I do next?
Before you speak to your manager and express an interest you should contact your LNC Chair who will be able to assist you through the process. If you do not know how to get in touch with your LNC Chair, contact the BMA for details.