The offer, which is expected to attract criticism for being too low, comes after the independent NHS Pay Review Body looked at evidence submitted by ministers as well as unions such as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
The Government sparked anger in March by saying it could only afford a 1% increase despite the extraordinary efforts of NHS staff to deal with the pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the plan and former health secretary Matt Hancock said the decision to recommend such a small increase was due to an assessment of “what’s affordable as a nation” following the Covid crisis.
The NHS Pay Review Body made its recommendation weeks ago, leaving unions to question why a pay rise is still being delayed.
The RCN’s acting general secretary Pat Cullen said: “Health Secretary Sajid Javid has a historic opportunity to show the Government values NHS staff and knows the importance of this pay rise to improving patient care.
“Nursing pay has fallen significantly in the last decade – by 15% in real terms. If the Government is serious about filling the tens of thousands of vacant nurse jobs then a significant pay rise is needed.
“It is as crucial to NHS recovery in the coming years as any other piece of investment.
“Low-level awards of a couple of per cent would look timid and insult staff when the challenges they face have never been greater.”
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “If the Pay Review Body is recommending a 3% pay rise, it is a small step forward on the insulting 1% the Government offered in March.
“However, this recommendation in no way recognises the 19% drop in real earnings that many NHS workers have endured in the last decade, nor the immense sacrifices that health staff have and are continuing to make as Covid infection rates rapidly rise again.
“It doesn’t match the 4% the Scottish Government offered to NHS workers backdated to December 2020.
“Three per cent will also do very little to staunch the escalating recruitment and retention crisis and free up resources to tackle the enormous backlog in non-Covid procedures, such as hip replacements.”