Flexible Career Scheme (FCS), retainer and returner scheme GPs who are employed by a GMS practice or PCO since 1 April 2004 must be offered terms and conditions that are no less favourable than the agreed Model salaried GP contract. In addition these schemes have specific features, particularly regarding educational time, which should be taken into account.
The GPC has published a model contract of employment for GP retainer scheme GPs. This model contract uses the agreed and binding minimum model salaried GP contract as its basis, with amendments made to incorporate the terms of the scheme and offers some enhanced conditions for such doctors. Many PCOs/deaneries require GP practices who wish to employ a GP retainee to use the BMA model GP retainer contract.
The GPC also produced a model contract of employment for FCS GPs and is similar to the GP retainer scheme contract. As with the GP retainer model contract, many PCOs/deaneries required GP practices to use the BMA model FCS contract in order to be eligible for the funding. However, it should be noted the FCS scheme is no longer available to new recruits.
The retainer scheme and FCS are for fixed terms with regard to the funding received from the PCO by the employer. As a result, employers tend to offer the retainee/FCS GP a fixed-term contract for the period of the funding. While fixed-term contracts can legally exist, the consequences of being employed under a fixed-term contract for a period of two years or more means that an employee is entitled to full employment rights (i.e. acquires the right to claim for unfair dismissal, although it is possible to claim this for certain dismissals with under two years employment).
Also, any fixed-term contract should not be regarded as simply ending at the end of a fixed term period. It is still a dismissal in law. In addition, fixed term contracts for four years or more are automatically in law considered to be permanent. Nevertheless, we advise that salaried doctors on a fixed-term contract should apply formally to their employer for their contract to be made permanent.
Appendix A provides a summary of some of the legal entitlements for an employee. These apply equally to a salaried GP on a fixed term contract.
In addition, if a GP's employment contract uses the GPC model FCS contract or the GPC model retainer contract, then previous NHS service (eg NHS service prior to the current post) will be taken into account in determining your NHS continuity of service for:
- contractual redundancy pay
- contractual maternity pay
- contractual sick pay
However, previous NHS service will not be used to calculate eligibility for statutory redundancy pay or for an unfair dismissal claim. Further details on continuity of service are detailed in earlier sections.
Where a salaried GP has been employed for at least two years, employers are obliged to ensure that they have a fair reason for dismissal and that a dismissal is reasonable in all the circumstances e.g. that they have followed the correct dismissal procedure. Our lawyer's view is that the withdrawal of funding may not on its own be a fair ground for dismissal, particularly if someone else is recruited to fill the vacant post. Consideration is likely to be given to the proportion of the previous funding received by the practice vis-à-vis the salary of the FCS/retainee GP. Obviously any possible ensuing problems will not materialise should the GP be retained by the practice in an equivalent salaried position.
Salaried GPs and their employers are therefore advised to seek individual expert advice from the BMA should a problem arise. Call us for advice on 0300 123 1233 or by contactingbma.org.uk/support