COVID-19: managing junior doctor rota changes in Scotland

Guidance on new rotas for junior doctors and annual leave, rest periods, pay, hours and working additional hours during coronavirus.

Location: Scotland
Audience: Junior doctors
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020

There will have been significant disruption to your normal working patterns, to your working conditions and even to your teams, your own roles and the settings in which you work.

As always, if you have any individual concerns or queries you should contact the BMA. We would also suggest that you email your LNC junior doctor subcommittee for advice on any group or specific local issues.

You can read the full joint statement from BMA Scotland and Scottish Government.


Ensuring your health and wellbeing

During this period, your rota is likely to be temporarily into a new shift pattern, and you may be redeployed to a new department or team.

NHS boards should ensure that any more intensive working pattern they are expecting you to work provides you with sufficient rest.

Rotas should, where at all possible, incorporate a degree of redundancy to ensure that unexpected absences can be covered. In this current emergency, where COVID-related absences are likely, this remains particularly important.

Some of you may have genuine difficulty in working your new temporary rota due to caring responsibilities, disability etc, and you will need to flag this up to your employer. If you are unable to agree an acceptable resolution, please contact the BMA as we may be able to help.

Need help? For 24/7 emergency COVID advice please call us. For all other non-emergency enquiries normal opening times apply.

Hours limits

All current new deal contractual provisions and working time regulations remain in force to ensure your safety.

The working time regulations set a maximum 48 hour week which for junior doctors is averaged over a 26 week reference period. This means that some weeks you can work more than 48 hours, so long as the average remains no more than 48 hours.

You can sign an opt out, enabling you to workup to an average of 56 hours but you are under no obligation to do so, and you can rescind an opt-out at any time.

Taking breaks

The working time regulations also require that you have:

  • a 20 minute break rest after six hours work
  • a minimum 11 hours rest between each shift
  • either 24 hours continuous rest in seven days or 48 hours continuous rest in 14 days.

There is no opt-out from these restrictions.

Other protections

There are some important additional non-contractual
rota requirements that we have agreed with the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland employers over the last few years. This includes maximum seven days/shift working, 46 hours rest post nights, no rota to contain seven nights in a row and adequate notice of fixed annual leave.

As we have received no request to agree any variation to these, they should also continue to apply.


Less than full-time trainees

When a new temporary rota is introduced, those of you who are working LTFT (less than full time) must have your LTFT status protected, unless you agree otherwise.

You may voluntarily agree to increase your usual LTFT percentage temporarily, or pick up additional shifts on an ad-hoc basis.

Consideration will need to be given to trainees in category 1 and category 2 LTFT status as to how your hours can be distributed depending on personal circumstances.

If you are able to offer additional hours by increasing your proportion of full-time equivalent, this should be reflected in a new rota with revised pay.

Where you provide additional hours on an ad-hoc basis, then this will normally be through the staff bank.

Our firm position is that, any offer to work additional hours to aid in the pandemic must not prejudice any application you make to work LTFT in the future.


Rota banding

Under normal circumstances, rota monitoring would ensure that your rota is compliant with the various rules on shift length, rest periods breaks etc, and that you are being paid appropriately.

The Scottish Government has taken the decision to suspend rota monitoring up to the end of July.

Your temporary rota redesign may or may not result in a change to your rota banding and an increase in pay.

If you are given a lower banding

In the unlikely event that your temporary rota is banded lower than you current rota, you will continue to receive the banding supplement that previously applied.

On-call and standby

Some of you who currently work non-resident on-call rotas may temporarily convert to a full shift pattern, depending on local needs.

Others may be asked to remain at home on standby in order to minimise staff exposure but provide availability to cover absence. This means that you may have to be available to attend your place of work at short notice.

Such hours on standby should be reflected accurately in any working pattern when calculating the banding supplement for the new rota (see below). It is the BMA position that standby hours should be counted as duty hours.

We advise you to check that your employer has run any redesigned rota through a tool called DRS. This will highlight any breaches of the hours and rest rules, and will calculate the appropriate banding supplement.


Working additional hours

Scottish Government confirmed that all NHS staff should be paid at the appropriate rate for any hours worked during the emergency.

We would advise that if you are working more than your rota states, then you should make sure you claim for any additional hours through local arrangements. These will generally be through the NHS staff bank at staff bank rates.

Additional shifts

You can do additional shifts via the staff bank, and be paid at the NHS staff bank rate, in addition to your rota. You should only agree to work additional hours that allow you to obtain enough rest and be compliant with the working time regulations.

Changes to your rota

Where you are asked to alter your rota duties at short notice, the situation can be quite complicated
and it can be difficult to calculate what you should claim.

For example, if you were scheduled on your rota to work a standard Monday to Friday 9-5 but are asked to instead work four x 12.5 hour night shifts, what should you claim for?

To ensure you are paid correctly, you should claim both the difference between the out of hours bank rate (outside Mon-Fri 9-5) and the in hours bank rate (Mon-Fri 9-5) for the 40 hours you are already being paid for, plus the additional 10 hours at the out of hours bank rate.

Given the potential for confusion, you should agree in advance the applicable rates for any additional work beyond your regular working pattern. 

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