Transferring to the 2021 SAS contracts

SAS doctors can choose to move to the new 2021 SAS contracts. Read what you should consider and the stages of the transition process.

Location: England Wales Northern Ireland
Audience: SAS doctors
Updated: Thursday 20 October 2022
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As part of the contract package recently negotiated by the BMA, and approved by our members, SAS doctors on the contracts below can decide whether or not to move to the new 2021 contract:

  • specialty doctors on the 2008 contract
  • existing associate specialists on the pre-2008 or 2008 closed national contracts
  • SAS doctors on another closed national grade contract, such as the old staff grade contract.

The framework agreements set out the terms and conditions of service changes implemented with the 2021 SAS contracts in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. 


Right to transfer

The BMA has agreed through the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) for SAS doctors that doctors on the 2008 specialty doctor terms and conditions, staff grades, CMOs, SCMOs, HPs and CAs in England and Northern Ireland will have the right to transfer to the 2021 specialty doctor contract during any time in their employment. The BMA has repeatedly lobbied for the removal of employer discretion surrounding ability to transfer at any point, and we know that the DDRB’s recommendation last year meant that many SAS doctors did not find it beneficial to move onto the new contract during the initial transfer window.

This agreement will mean that SAS doctors can now choose to move onto the new contract when it becomes financially beneficial for them to do so. If you wish to express an interest to transfer to the new contract, you should let your employer know in writing. Your employer should then initiative a job plan review and then offer you a new job plan and salary package. You have the right to accept or decline the offer. If you choose to accept this offer, the start date and transfer to the 2021 contract will be the date your new job plan comes into effect. It is important to note this means your salary on the new contract will not be based on your pay on 31st March 2021, but the day your new job plan comes into effect.

The BMA’s position is that employers should not be clawing back overpayments for doctors who moved onto the new contract during the initial transfer window. We know some employers in England have already agreed not to do so, and we strongly recommend that employers do not claw back overpayments from those who transferred previously in order to ensure fairness between those who expressed interest during the initial transfer window, and those who will express an interest following this agreement.

For more detail, read the new contractual provisions (NHS Employers).


Window of opportunity

Previously, SAS doctors were given a six-month ‘window of opportunity’ to express their interest in moving to the new contracts, which has now closed in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Due to delays caused by the pandemic, many employers did not write to their staff in time to allow a six-month window. Where this happened, some entered into local agreements to extend the window of opportunity.

Prior to this agreement, the contract stipulated that where an individual wishes to transfer outside of the window of opportunity they can only do so at the discretion of their employer. This has now been superseded by the updated Schedule enabling doctors to move onto the new contract at any point in the future when they wish to do so.


Impact of the pay award in England and Northern Ireland

The announcement of a 3% pay award for contracts that are not subject to a pay deal has significantly changed the situation for SAS doctors on the old contracts when considering whether to move to the new contracts.

We have expressed our disappointment about the outcome of the pay award process.

When the 2021 specialty doctor pay scale was being designed, it was intended that no one would see their pay decrease through transferring to the new contract.

However, the 3% increase on the 2008 contract, and it being backdated to April, means that, in the first year, a far greater number of individuals will see an immediate reduction in their basic pay by moving to the 2021 contract.

It was already the case that associate specialists on the 2008 contract would see no increase in basic pay from transferring to the 2021 specialist contract. Those at or near the top of the scale would also have seen their basic pay frozen through pay protection, which would have implications for their pension contributions. After the 3% pay award, there is even less reason for existing associate specialists to transfer.

The joint document on pay journeys also outlines what would happen to your basic pay when you transfer and over the three years of transition. Please note that this pay journey document only applies to those doctors who transferred onto the new SAS contracts in 2021.

Because the pay protection offered will be based on the salary they would have been earning before the pay award was added, it is very clear that they would be better off remaining on the associate specialist contract in terms of basic pay.

For England and Northern Ireland, we have set out the issue in greater detail:

We have highlighted the negative impact that the pay award decision will have. We called upon the governments, as a minimum, to offer pay protection to those transferring.

This is so that they don’t see their pay reduce in the short term and can continue to receive the other benefits of the contract, such as the safeguards to protect work/life balance, the increased on-call availability supplements, and the additional day of annual leave after seven years in the grade.

Otherwise, the majority of existing SAS doctors will instead choose to remain on the 2008 contracts and receive the benefit of the 3% pay award. Then, seek to transfer in the future when it becomes more financially beneficial for them to do so.


Pay continuity arrangements in Wales

In Wales, we have reached an agreement with Welsh Government and NHS Wales Employers to provide pay continuity to specialty doctors who choose to transfer to the new contract before 30 November 2021.

These individuals will be paid the higher of the 2008 contract and 2021 contract basic pay value for their individual pay point throughout 2021/22. This will take place both before and after their 2021/22 pay progression date – it is not just a cash floor pay protection.

This ensures that all specialty doctors can benefit from the 3% pay award and those who choose to transfer to the new contract will not experience a nominal reduction in basic pay.

For most specialty doctors, pay continuity will occur for the 2021/22 pay year after which point they will be paid according to the 2021 contract pay scale.

For those on pay points 2 and 5 at 31 March 2021, pay continuity will extend slightly longer until the individual doctor’s 2022/23 pay progression date in order to ensure there is no loss of pay for them on 1 April 2022.

In practice, as many specialty doctors are yet to transfer to the new contract, much of these arrangements will be settled in arrears upon transfer.

Our recent webinar explains how pay continuity works and what that means for you.

NHS Wales Employers have produced additional guidance and a pay modelling tool to help you compare career-long basic pay on the 2021 and 2008 specialty doctor pay scales based upon a given starting pay point.


The transition process

Step 1 - Expressing interest

If you tell your employer that you want to transfer to the new contracts, you will begin a process of transition.

An expression of interest is not legally binding (schedule 20 of the TCs) and it does not mean you are obliged to transfer. What it means is that you agree to enter into the transitional process in good faith and with the expectation of transferring.

Step 2 - Job planning and pay journeys

Once you express an interest in moving to the new contract, the expectation is that within three months you and your employer will enter into a job planning process. You will review your current work pattern and your salary journey. You and your employer will jointly decide whether any changes are needed or not.

In the salary journey detail, you should ensure that the latest DDRB pay uplift is included in your existing salary. You should also factor in any future possible DDRB recommendations for pay increase -  although it is not possible to predict what these may be. You should also take into consideration the non-pay benefits to career progression.

Where either you or your employer suggest changes with which the other does not agree, you can both use the usual job planning mediation and appeals processes before you make a final decision about transferring.

Step 3 - The offer

After the job planning meeting, your employer must provide a written statement of the job plan and salary package you would receive under the new contract.

In the majority of cases, we would expect individuals’ pay to increase as a result of transferring to the new contracts.

However, if transferring would result in any reductions to your pay, such as through agreed changes to your job plan, your employer should let you know at this point.

Step 4 - Accept or decline

If at this point you have been unable to agree to a new job plan with your employer, are unhappy with any changes they are proposing to your working patterns, or are not willing to accept any reduction in pay, you are under no obligation to move to the new contract.

After your employer has made the final offer, you will have 21 days in which to either accept or decline. If you choose to decline, there will be no detriment to you and you will remain on your existing contract, job plan, and pay arrangements.

If you choose to accept, your pay will be based on your salary at the time you begin working under your new job plan at a date agreed with your employer.



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WATCH: webinar discussing the process of transition to the new contract
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Moving onto the 2021 SAS contract?


Ensure you are recording your work activities correctly on our job planning tool Dr Diary.

Simply confirm your new contract in the employer selection.

Update your contract in Dr Diary
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