A mutually agreed resignation scheme (known as MARS) has been approved by the Trust and will be open for applications until Thursday 30 September.

The scheme is intended to support the Trust through rapid change and redesign of its services by creating vacancies in the Trust that can be absorbed at no cost, filled by redeployment from other jobs or as a suitable alternative job for those at risk of redundancy. 

MARS is a time-limited scheme under which an individual employee, in agreement with their employer, chooses to leave employment in return for a severance payment. A MARS is not redundancy* or voluntary redundancy, which would currently be covered by section 16 of the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook.

*The definition of redundancy given by Section 139 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 states:

"...an employee who is dismissed shall be taken to be dismissed by reason of redundancy if the dismissal is attributable wholly or mainly to:

  • the fact that his employer has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on the business for the purposes of which the employee was employed by him, or has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on that business in the place where the employee was employed or
  • the fact that the requirements of that business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind, or for employees to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where he was so employed, have ceased or diminished or are expected to cease or diminish"

To be eligible, an employee must have a minimum of 12 months’ continuous NHS service (continuous NHS service being defined as NHS service with no break greater than 12 months).

The Trust will use the scheme to enable potential volunteers who meet the eligibility criteria (Appendix 1) to leave the Trust on beneficial terms. 

The Trust reserves the right to determine whether an application is viable in terms of creating a vacancy which can be absorbed at no cost or can be filled by redeployment from a post that in turn need not be filled.

Executive directors will have sole discretion regarding those individuals who are offered MARS payments and there will be no right of appeal on the part of those staff whose applications are not successful.

Where costs are incurred to free up a post, a judgement will be made as to whether the extent of those costs is justified against the recurring saving.

It is important the MARS is affordable and as such it is not possible or appropriate to fund any arrangements which require enhanced pension costs. There is no age limit for applications under this scheme; however, staff should be aware that this scheme does not allow access to any enhanced pension benefits. With this in mind, the best deal on offer will equate to a one-off payment of no more than 12 months’ basic salary of the total cost of the post in question.

The Trust will base the MARS calculation on continuous NHS service and only this will be included when calculating a MARS payment (eg previous local authority service will not be included), unless previous service outside the NHS has been contractually agreed (eg as part of TUPE).

Any employee who has total earnings of more than £80,000 will have their MARS payment capped at £80,000.

MARS payment will be inclusive of notice and holiday pay and there will be no additional payments in those respects. Therefore, any accrued holidays must be taken before the leaving date or the holiday pay in respect of those days will be lost. The leaving date will be individually agreed, but can be no later than 31 March 2022.

An employee taking MARS is not dismissed by the Trust, whether on the grounds of redundancy or for any other reason. It is termination of employment by consent and so applicants who wish to apply under this scheme should also consider if there is any effect on their ability to access state benefits or any insurance policies they may have.

No employee has a right to a MARS payment. It is always a matter of discretion for the Trust.

This MARS, in itself, has no link to the entitlement to or value of benefits available to members of the NHS Pension Scheme. However, any member of the NHS Pension Scheme who is aged 50 years and over and who has had a request for a MARS arrangement approved, may be entitled to benefits under the Voluntary Early Retirement arrangements. Details are available from the Trust’s payroll provider, St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust on 0151 290 4043 or 0151 290 4483.

If the employee decides to access their pension, no contribution will be made by the Trust to this pension. Payroll will be able to advise individuals on any reductions they may receive to their pension as a result of early release of benefits.

Due to the short timescale for running this MARS, the Trust will not provide employees with an estimate of the MARS payment to applicants. However, a MARS calculator is available for employees to estimate their payment (see table in MARS payments below).

To estimate a MARS payment, the employee will need to be clear about their length of continuous NHS service.

The full process for making a formal application is set out in Appendix 2. A summary of the key steps are outlined below:

  • An employee interested in applying for MARS to discuss with their line manager in the first instance. The divisional HR Team can also be contacted to discuss potential applications.

  • The employee then fills in section A of the application form and submits this to their line manager.

  • The line manager completes section B of the application form in conjunction with a senior manger who is an authorised signatory.

  • Divisional management in receipt of these applications will ensure applications are complete and submit these to: mars@merseycare.nhs.uk 

  • The Trust will then consider applications through a MARS panel.

  • All applications will be subject to approval by the Trust’s Remuneration Committee.

  • Applicants will be informed of the decision. No employee is bound by the decision until a settlement agreement has been signed (see below).

It is a condition of this MARS that a successful applicant does not seek to return to the employment of Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust within 12 months of their last day of employment, or that at the date their employment ends, or within four weeks of the end of employment, they do not accept or commence employment with any NHS organisation.

Where a former employee returns to work in the NHS in England within six months and before the expiry date of the period for which they have been compensated (measured in equivalent months or part months’ salary), they will be required to repay any unexpired element of their MARS payment. This would be reduced if the appointment was at a lower band/grade.

The settlement agreement (see below) will specify the requirement to repay monies in such circumstances.

All successful applicants for MARS will be required to sign a settlement agreement. This will ensure all parties are clear as to the voluntary agreement they have entered into, which does not give access to NHS redundancy provisions or NHS Pension provisions which apply in the event of redundancy.

The Trust will organise group consultation sessions for applicants with an independent legal adviser which has been endorsed by staff side. Dates and venues for these consultation meetings will be circulated in advance for applicants to book on to.

Applicants retain the right to make arrangements for their own legal advice and the Trust will be pay legal fees up to £300 including VAT for this.

The Trust will ensure that the MARS is applied fairly and without regard to any unlawful discrimination, whether on the grounds of age, disability, sex, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity and marital and civil partnership status. Monitoring of this scheme will be undertaken.

Continuous service (complete years as at the agreed leaving date) scale of payment:

Years of continuous service (organisation/NHS)

Scale of payment

1 year

3 months basic salary

2 years

3 months basic salary

3 years

3 months basic salary

4 years

3 months basic salary

5 years

3 months basic salary

6 years

3 months basic salary

7 years

3½ months basic salary

8 years

4 months basic salary

9 years

4½ months basic salary

10 years

5 months basic salary

11 years

5½ months basic salary

12 years

6 months basic salary

13 years

6½ months basic salary

14 years

7 months basic salary

15 years

7½ months basic salary

16 years

8 months basic salary

17 years

8½ months basic salary

18 years

9 months basic salary

19 years

9½ months basic salary

20 years

10 months basic salary

21 years

10½ months basic salary

22 years

11 months basic salary

23 years

11½ months basic salary

24 years

12 months basic salary

Notes:

  • Continuous service is defined as NHS service with no break of greater than 12 months
  • In some cases, severance payments are not subject to deductions in accordance with the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1998, but the individual circumstances of each case will need to be considered. As a guide however, current legislation can allow for voluntary severance payments to be paid without deduction of tax and national insurance up to a maximum of £30,000. Any payment made above this amount will be subject to tax and national insurance.
  • This is subject to the Post Employment Notice Pay / Period (PENP) provisions of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (ITEPA) (sections 402D and 402E) which mean all payments in respect of an employee’s contractual notice period must be subject to appropriate income tax and national insurance contribution deductions, whether the notice period is served or not. The MARS scheme is drafted on the basis / assumption that employees will have sufficient time to serve their notice within the period before the employment ends and so will receive their notice pay subject to the necessary deductions accordingly. On that basis, PENP deductions will not need to be made to the MARS payment. If the individual does not serve their full notice before the employment ends, a portion of the MARS payment equivalent to the pay that would have been received during the 'unserved' notice period, will be deemed by HMRC to be PENP and subject to income tax and national insurance contribution deductions. 

Action

 

Date

Approval to run MARS obtained from NHS Improvement

June 2021

MARS scheme opens

2 August 2021

MARS scheme closes

30 September 2021

Senior manager to submit completed applications to dedicated email address mars@merseycare.nhs.uk no later than

30 September 2021

MARS panel considers applications and approves or rejects by

15 October 2021

Remuneration Committee approves or rejects applications by

27 October 2021

Applicants receive written confirmation of the outcome of their application by

November 2021

Independent legal advice sessions run by

November 2021

Approved applicants accept the offer of MARS by

November 2021

Settlement agreements processed and signed off by

November/December 2021

Approved employees leave employment at the latest by

31 March 2022

 

MARS is a time-limited scheme and late applications will only be accepted in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of the Executive Director of Workforce.

This scheme will be reviewed by the Trust’s Audit Committee three years after ratification.

If you would like further information or wish to discuss a possible application under this scheme, please email: mars@merseycare.nhs.uk