Junior doctor England Contract

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Working under terms of a disputed contract

Read the latest guidance on the junior doctor contract 2016

The BMA remains opposed to the introduction of the new junior doctor contract which was rejected by a clear majority of our members in a referendum held in June 2016.

While industrial action has been suspended, we continue to call for the introduction of the contract to stop while further negotiations take place to ensure that the outstanding areas of concern raised by our members can be resolved. 

The first junior doctors in England due to start working under the new contract, according to the phased transition plan, are obstetrics and gynaecology ST3 doctors when rotation occurs on 5 October 2016.

In light of the way in which the new contract is being introduced, you may be put in the difficult position of having to start work under the terms of a contract which is still subject to a trade dispute.

Read our FAQs on working under a disputed contract.

Key information

  • I’ve been given a contract starting 5 October and asked to sign now - do I have to?

    No. There is no legal obligation to sign the contract in advance, you can wait until you actually start work before deciding whether to sign.

    Junior doctors exercising their right not to sign the 2016 contract in advance should take into account the effects that this may have on their continuity of employment upon the expiration of their current contract.

    If you receive any pressure to sign this contract, please seek advice from the BMA immediately.

  • What happens if I refuse to sign the new contract offered on 5 October?

    The way in which the contract is being introduced is that when existing contracts expire, generally because a given rotation has finished, employers have been instructed to offer only the new 2016 terms and conditions of service, with the employee being free to choose whether or not to accept the contract.

    The reality of this for a junior doctor in the NHS is that they would have to either accept the new terms or not to have a job. You could, in theory, seek work elsewhere, however given the national implementation timetable, you are likely to find that other trusts are also only offering the new contract.

    If you refuse to accept the terms offered, you would not be employed, which would have implications for your progression through the training pathway and, in a more immediate sense, you would not be paid.

  • Are all trusts introducing the new contract for obs and gynae ST3 trainees on 5 October?

    The contract has been introduced very quickly, with limited time available for employers fully to prepare the substantial new logistical framework needed, from appointing guardians to undertaking local equalities impact assessments.

    Given this, some trusts are exercising their right to choose under which contracts they employ junior doctors staff and are continuing to use the 2002 terms and conditions until they are properly ready for the introduction of the new contract. Make sure you check which contract you are being offered by your trust before signing it.

    See our email and letter templates in take action and write to your trust further down this page.

  • What does working under protest mean?

    "Working under protest" expresses to your employer that you are opposed to the 2016 Terms and Conditions of Service, and you are working whilst in dispute.

    You continue to work under the contract and retain your training post, but you have expressed your opposition to their decision to introduce a contract that has not been formally accepted by the trade union.

  • What if I start working, but don’t actually sign the contract?

    Legally, if you start work under the 2016 terms and conditions, this constitutes your acceptance of the contract.

    It doesn’t matter whether you have physically signed and returned the document you’ve been given by your employer. Once you have started working work for your employer, this constitutes mutual agreement to the new terms.

    However, you can register your, written protest by letter or email to your trust. This would set out that while you’re prepared to work for the employer, you do not agree with the introduction of the 2016 terms and conditions and are therefore working under protest.

  • Does this constitute my employer unilaterally changing my employment terms without my consent?

    If you were on a long-term contract that wasn’t yet due to expire and your employer said you had to change to the new contract or not have a job, then yes – and you could challenge this legally.

    However, NHS Employers have confirmed they won’t be doing this: you will only be offered the new contract if your existing one has expired.

    Even though, as a junior doctor, you are continuously employed in the NHS, you are employed by the trust for which you work.

    If your specific individual contract of employment with your employer has expired, then if you’re offered the new terms, this does not constitute a change to your contract, but rather the replacement of one which has expired.

  • What can I do if I want to keep resisting this contract but not lose my job?

    This, clearly, is difficult for junior doctors in this position. The BMA continues to resist the introduction of this contract and remains in a trade dispute.

    You can start working, but inform your employer in writing that you are opposed to this contractual change and that you are working under protest.

    See our email and letter templates in take action and write to your trust further down this page.

  • Is the BMA going to provide a model contract it endorses in place of the new contract?

    No, we believe that the best deal for junior doctors is to have one national set of terms and conditions which have been agreed with the BMA (as the trade union) – currently this is available in the form of the 2002 terms and conditions. We would encourage you to ask your employer to continue using this contract: it is easier for them and doesn’t cost them any more money.

  • Will the BMA provide employment advice if I’m working under the new contract?

    Yes, we are fully prepared with guidance and information to help you understand the new contract and our employment advisers are ready to support you with any problems you experience at work, regardless of the contract you are on.

    Call 0300 123 1233 or email bma.org.uk/support.

  • Take action and write to your trust

    Our template letter to chief executives gives you the opportunity to press your trust to delay the introduction of the contract until all of the necessary arrangements are in place.

    Download the template letter

    We've also provided an email template to send to your HR director if you want to notify them that you do not want to accept the 2016 terms and conditions of service that you are being offered by your employer, and that you are working under protest.  

    Download the email template