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Making previous experience pay for a consultant

A recently appointed consultant was told her previous experience would not count towards seniority in a new post. The problem, the trust said, was that her experience had come in the form of ‘various locum agency posts’. This was misleading. In fact, there were three postings, each lasting several months and based within NHS hospitals.

The trust quoted from NHS Employers guidance, which says the counting of locum service towards seniority ‘is a matter for employers to decide at local level’.

But the problem with there being so much guidance about NHS jobs is that it can sometimes be quoted selectively. I referred to the guidance and in the very same paragraph it gives more detail. It says the expectation was that locum service would only count if it was equivalent to a substantive consultant post. It was.

And it goes on to say that the experience was unlikely to count if it was a short-term appointment — ie, less than three months, and probably less than six. Well, each of the three locum appointments had been longer than six months.

I also pointed out to them that although the locums had been undertaken via an agency, all the placements were at NHS hospitals covering for substantive vacancies or long-term absences.

I advised the trust that it would not be fair to fail to recognise these postings simply because our member was not a direct employee of the NHS while gaining this experience and had worked instead as a fixed-term agency worker. The trust conceded these points and the doctor’s salary was increased.

There was also another area where I could help the doctor. For two months she had been told she would have to take part in the on-call rota, but given no actual duties.

The following month she was told she was not required to do on call, but given a payment anyway. The trust now wanted the money back, and had already taken the first of three instalments of £180. I came to an agreement with the trust that it would not take any more.

There had been two months where the doctor had made herself available for on-call work, and it was not her fault if the trust had not given her these duties. It took about four months to resolve the issues. It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the doctor had these problems at the start of a new job, when she should have been free to concentrate on her caseload.

Many pay errors and incorrect gradings happen at this time. When you take on a new job check your contract and pay carefully, and if you think there is an error that is not easily resolved, we are here to help.

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