What should I consider when returning to training?
You must ensure that your educational supervisor is aware of the anticipated date of return, in order to secure your re-entry to the training programme.
Where the duration of the OOP is longer than a year, the OOP request and annual review document should be returned on an annual basis to the LETB/deanery while you are out of programme, and at least six months’ notice must be given of the intended return date. Please note that there are some additional requirements for extending each type of OOP which are detailed on the document.
The OOP Request and Annual Review document is located in the latest version of the Gold Guide as Appendix 3.
Note that training placements depend on availability and you may have to wait for a placement upon your return. The smoothness this transition will depend largely on you maintaining good communication with your LETB/deanery throughout your time OOP, however you must be prepared to work in a location that you may not prefer upon your return. If you want to extend your OOP period you will need permission from the LETB/deanery as if it were a new period of time out, including requesting further approval from the GMC where applicable.
The relevant college or faculty must be informed of any extension to the OOP period agreed by your LETB/deanery. Be sure to communicate any differences in your placement from those outlined in your original application.
During OOPC there is no guarantee that the return date will be within six months of you indicating your wish to return to training. If there are likely to be problems accommodating your return to the programme, you should be advised about this at the outset of the OOPC.
What happens when I return to training?
Each trainee will have different needs when returning to work after time OOP, reflecting their experiences and circumstances. Your employer should put in place an appropriate process for your return to practice that ensures patient safety and the effective resumption of your training programme. Refer to the Academy of Medical Royal College’s ‘Return to practice guidance’ for more information.
You will be required to participate in a Return to Work package at the end of any time you spend OOPC, or if you have been OOPR with no clinical care component for longer than three months. This should include consideration of returning to clinical learning as well as to clinical practice, and may include ‘Keep in Touch’ arrangements. Regardless of the type of OOP you are undertaking, make sure you discuss returning-to-work issues with your training programme director or educational supervisor when planning your time out of programme, and also shortly before you return.
How will taking time OOP affect my contractual benefits?
If you undertake time Out of Programme for Research (OOPR) you typically transfer from NHS to University employment for the duration of the research, which may be done on an honorary contract. This involves potential changes in pay, pension, maternity leave and other terms and conditions of service and it is important to be aware of these.
In order to qualify for certain contractual entitlements such as occupational maternity leave, trainees need to have both:
- a certain length of time served
- for that time to be unbroken
Breaks in service due to time OOP should be disregarded in respect of:
- pay progression
- occupational maternity/parental leave
However, these breaks will not add to your duration of service.
In other words, because your continuity of service will not be broken, the above entitlements will be protected. However the time you spend out of programme won’t be added on to your length of service (which affects the qualifying period for such entitlements), rather it will essentially pause the stopwatch to be resumed once you return.
Periods of OOP will break continuity in terms of statutory maternity pay entitlement, unless the OOP is taken with the same NHS employer. If you are going OOPR we would encourage you to seek an honorary contract with your employer, where applicable, in order to protect certain benefits relating to continuity of service, including statutory maternity pay entitlement.
Note that, if you protect your entitlement to maternity pay after a break, the amount your entitlement is worth may still be affected if your baby is due within approximately the first six months of your return to work. This is due to how maternity pay is calculated, based on an average of your pay from previous weeks. If you are concerned this affects you, you can seek advice from BMA employment advisers.
It is important to note that trainees must relinquish their NTN if they take more than a two year break from training on either an OOPE or OOPC.
You can continue contributing to your NHS pension during time OOP – see BMA guidance on your pension during an authorised absence or career break.
Foundation doctors do not have National Training Numbers, and unfortunately will not have breaks in service disregarded as outlined above for specialty trainees.