COVID-19 terms and conditions: junior doctors

Rota changes and workforce challenges for junior doctors in Northern Ireland

Audience: Junior doctors
Updated: Monday 31 May 2021
Topics: COVID 19

COVID-19 presents the health service and all its staff with unique and unprecedented challenges. It has become clear that this is likely to bring significant disruption to your normal working patterns; your working conditions; your teams, your role and the locations in which you work.

BMA Northern Ireland has produced a statement for junior doctors on the impact of COVID-19 on your contract terms and conditions.

Summary of key principles

Written confirmation must be received, in advance of any changes, with adequate notice, on the following:

  • agreement that any change to duties will be for a specific limited period only to respond to the current emergency, and that all remaining terms and conditions of employment will be unaffected
  • confirmation of the date as to when redeployment will be reviewed and, if agreed, ended, and;
  • clarification on payment arrangements.

The BMA recognises that the pressures associated with COVID-19 remain a significant burden, and we know that all HSC staff will continue to be under considerable strain for the foreseeable future. We are proud of how responsive and flexible junior doctors have been, and how hard they continue to work to support the HSC response to the pandemic.

This statement is designed to ensure that staff safety and wellbeing remains paramount through-out this difficult period, whilst recognising the need for a degree of flexibility and adaptation to a rapidly evolving situation.

Read the statement

Please note: the Department of Health in Northern Ireland and the main health and social care trusts have agreed in principle with the overall aim of the statement and the value in protecting post graduate doctors and dentists in training. However, they have chosen not to commit to issuing this as a joint statement with NIJDC. We will continue to engage with the Department of Health and HSC trusts in an effort to ensure a collaborative approach to appropriately managing the junior doctor workforce during the pandemic.


Ensuring your health and wellbeing

  • Any revised rota must still provide you with sufficient rest and breaks to ensure both patient safety and your own health and wellbeing.
  • Rotas should, where at all possible, incorporate a degree of redundancy to ensure unexpected absences can be covered.
  • Annual leave requests should be honoured as far as reasonably possible and factored into any changes to avoid burnout, excess fatigue and ill-health.

If you have difficulty in working the new temporary rota due to caring responsibilities, disability etc, discuss this with your employer. If you encounter any difficulty, contact us.


Hours limits

Current rules regarding working hours still apply to ensure your safety.

You are at liberty to opt out of the EWTR maximum hours limit if you wish - you cannot be forced to do this. The EWTR maximum average hours limit is 48 hours over a 26 week reference period. By opting out you can work up to an average 56 hours per week. You can opt back in at any time.

EWTR also require you to have a 20-minute break rest after six hours work, a minimum 11 hours rest between each shift, and either 24 hours continuous rest in seven days or 48 hours continuous rest in 14 days. There is no opt-out from the rest requirement. 

LTFTs (less than full-time trainees)

LTFTs may voluntarily agree to work more hours for appropriate payment and this must not prejudice any application you make to work less than full-time in the future.


Rota monitoring

Current pressures on the workforce may make the monitoring process more challenging. However, monitoring is the only method to provide empirical evidence to ensure you are appropriately remunerated.

  • In the unlikely event that your temporary rota is banded lower than your current rota you should continue to receive the banding supplement that previously applied.
  • To check the banding for a new working pattern, use the BMA banding calculator.
  • Doctors in the training grades, including flexible trainees and locum doctors in training employed during the whole monitoring period, should be monitored.
  • For a monitoring exercise to be valid, 75% of eligible doctors need to fully participate and 75% of duty periods worked need to be monitored
  • Monitoring is not a contractual obligation for non-training grade doctors, and they should not be compelled to complete it, nor they should be included as part of the 75% returns that are required.
  • You are required to take part in monitoring even if you are on annual, study or sick leave and on days when you are not on site.
  • You can request rota monitoring at any other time if you feel that your rota doesn't reflect the hours you work. For example, changes made to your rota due to COVID-19.
  • The banding should reflect the new working arrangement, although sometimes employers will pay for additional hours separately via locum payments.
  • Contact your trust medical staffing department to request monitoring.