Junior doctor Leave

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Junior doctors' leave

Our guidance will ensure you're aware of your leave entitlements as a junior doctor.


Important notice

This guidance applies to trainees employed under the 2002 terms and conditions of service.

If you are employed under the 2016 terms and conditions in England, please see the 2016 junior doctors handbook for the latest guidance on leave for you.


Leave guidance for 2002 junior doctor contract

  • Your annual leave entitlement

    Every employee in the NHS has the right to take annual leave. The amount of annual leave is determined by your grade and, in the case of specialty trainees, your current incremental pay point. The following grades are entitled to take five weeks of annual leave:

    • Foundation year 1
    • Foundation year 2
    • StRs, StR(FT)s and SpRs on the minimum, first or second incremental points of the payscale.

    The following grades are entitled to take six weeks of annual leave a year:

    • StRs, StR(FT)s and SpRs on the third or higher incremental points of the payscale

    Less than full-time trainees

    Annual leave for less than full-time trainees should be calculated on a pro-rated basis. For example, a less than full-time trainee working 60% of a full-time rota should receive 60% of the entitlement to annual leave and 60% of the entitlement to public holidays.


  • Working on a public holiday

    Your terms and conditions of service entitle you to eight public holidays a year. This is pro-rated for less than full time trainees.

    If you work on a public holiday you should get a day off in lieu, including if you only work between midnight and 9am that day (ie a night shift or on-call that runs into a public holiday).

    Zero hours

    What happens if I have a 'zero hours' or an 'off' day on my rota on a public holiday?  

    Under your terms and conditions of service, you are entitled to eight 'public holidays' a year in addition to your annual leave.

    These provisions also apply to doctors in less than full time training at a proportionate level. So, for example, a doctor working 70% of a full time rota would receive 70% of this entitlement (or 5.6 days). Some doctors will of course have to work on those days and should receive a day off in lieu at another time.

    Increasingly, however, some rotas are being designed with additional days off (sometimes called 'zero-hour days') to ensure that they comply with New Deal hours limits and the working time regulations.

    If your rota has you doing a 'zero-hour day' on a public holiday, the day should be counted as only one of these and you may still receive the other as a day off in lieu. A single day cannot count as both a day of holiday and a 'zero-hour day' at the same time - a public holiday cannot be treated as a 'zero-hour day', or vice versa.

    A 'zero-hour day' is not a day of leave from duty, because you will be working your full hours, just on other days of the rota. So a 'zero-hour day' cannot be counted as holiday. Your colleagues who work on a public holiday will get a day off in lieu as well as their 'zero hour day' at another time, so it is logical that you should expect to have a day off in lieu too.

    We recommend that you check your rota in advance. Speak to your employer and/or rota manager if you have any doubts as to whether you have received your contracted number of public holidays. NHS Employers have published a statement to ensure that your employer gets this right.

    Read NHS Employers joint statement on contracted public holidays

    If you continue to have concerns, contact a BMA Employment Advisor on 0300 123 1233 or email your query


  • Fixed annual leave

    What is fixed leave?

    I work on a rota where the annual leave is fixed. What can I do to change this?  

    As a junior doctor you are entitled to annual leave of between five and six weeks depending on your level of seniority. Most rotas are designed with "leave weeks" built in; that is weeks where the junior doctor is on a week of normal day shifts, with no out of hours commitment. These weeks allow flexibility in planning annual leave as these weeks can be swapped with other junior doctors on the rota with their agreement.

    You can still take leave in other weeks, but this will require swapping out of the on-call/out of hours commitments with your colleagues. Another approach used by employers is to design a rota template with periods of annual leave factored in - junior doctors are then either allocated to a slot or given the choice of a slot which suits their leave needs. This approach is much less flexible for the junior doctors. This is often referred to as fixed leave.

    Are employers allowed to fix our leave?

    Whilst the JDC does not support this practice there is no provision for challenging this under your contract i.e. the Terms and Conditions of Service. However, the JDC does not believe this represents good practice and encourages employers to move away from this.


  • Get involved in your rota design

    Most employers are glad to get junior doctor input into rota design as it generally makes for a better working relationship. You may find that the fixed leave was only inserted for convenience at the time the rota was designed originally and there will be very little resistance to changing this.

    We are not supportive of fixed annual leave. No other staff group within the NHS is subject to such unfair practice, so why should junior doctors be singled out in this way?

    If you want to challenge the use of fixed leave on your rota, you will need to redesign the rota in conjunction with your medical staffing department as follows:

    1. We advise that you set up a meeting to discuss the rota with your colleagues and get a consensus on how you would prefer it to be arranged.
    2. Come up with a rota that will allow you to take your leave in a more flexible manner. Don't forget there could be an impact on your banding - make sure you take this into consideration before any meeting.
      Use our rota design guidance to help you
    3. Once you have your ideas on paper, contact the person/department in charge of your rota and request a meeting to discuss your proposal
      Use our template letter to set up your meeting
    4. You may also find it useful to contact your local BMA Representative or your LNC Representative for their help and support.


  • Sick leave

    If you are unable to attend work due to illness, injury or other disability then you are entitled to receive a sick leave allowance:

    • During the first year of service: One month's full pay and (after completing four months' service) two months' half pay.
    • During the second year of service: Two months' full pay and two months' half pay.
    • During the third year of service: Four months' full pay and four months' half pay.
    • During the fourth and fifth years of service: Five months' full pay and five months' half pay
    • After completing five years of service: Six months' full pay and six months' half pay.

    In exceptional cases these times can be extended by the employer at their discretion. While on half pay you can receive statutory sick pay as well, as long as the total amount does not exceed your normal full pay amount. Continuous service is defined as working in the NHS (and/or other bodies such as the civil service, defined in TCS paragraph 228a), including as a locum, with no break longer than 12 months.

    If you work outside the NHS for more than 12 months you have to start building up your sick pay allowances again from the beginning.


    Your responsibilities

    You are contractually obliged to notify your employer immediately of your absence, its nature and, if possible, how long you expect to be absent. Beyond the third day you must submit a statement regarding the nature of the illness.

    You can do this by gaining a self-certificate from your employer upon your return to work.

    The self-certificate is to cover days four to six of the absence. After seven calendar days, medical certificates completed by a doctor other than you should be submitted, ie a fit note.

    Having advised the employer of the absence, it is the employer’s responsibility to arrange appropriate cover. The employer has no right to request a doctor who is absent due to ill health to make the necessary cover arrangements. Nor should the doctor be put under any pressure when absent to repay the cover at a later date. If you are unfit for work, under health and safety legislation you should not be at work.

    It is vitally important to provide the employer with as much information as possible about your reason for absence at the earliest opportunity to enable the employer to make necessary cover arrangements. For example: a doctor advises on day one that s/he is unwell and unable to attend work, stating a probable return on day three. However by the afternoon of day two the doctor does not feel s/he will be fit to return to work on day three, then the doctor should contact the employer to provide an update and an indication as to a potential return date. Failure to update the employer in this way could potentially impact on your colleagues as they are expected to cover for the occasional brief, short term absence of a colleague (NB: a colleague is another doctor participating in the same rota or shift).

    Read our guidance on your responsibilities when asked to provide cover for absent colleagues


    Being asked to complete a shift when you are unwell

    I feel too unwell to work safely but I have been asked to complete my shift, what should I do?  

    This can be bullying behaviour. Under the GMC's Good Medical Practice you have a duty to ensure you are fit to deliver patient care safely.

    If you do not feel you can do this because of sickness you should be clear with your line manager or supervisor that you cannot carry on participating on the rota and must be allowed to take sick leave. Alert the medical staffing department to your sickness and ask them to arrange cover if necessary whilst you are away.


  • FAQs

    I wasn't able to take my full leave entitlement over my post - what can I do?

    Carry over of leave from one post to another is often contentious, and should be agreed in advance with the new employer.

    In most cases, where a junior doctor has been unable to take the full allowance of annual leave before the end of the 'leave year' they are allowed to carry over up to five days, subject to the exigencies of the service and authorisation from the employer.

    Foundation doctors may only transfer up to four days' leave. The terms and conditions of service states that: 'The leave period of an FHO1 or HO shall correspond with the period of tenure of a post'. Normally this will mean that the total annual leave allowance of five weeks will be divided between each individual post in the FY1 year. An FY1 cannot then carry forward more than four days of that allocation into the next four-month post. The previous employer is responsible for notifying the next employer about the outstanding leave, although it is prudent to check that this has been done.

    Employers often restrict leave such that only one doctor per rota can be on leave at any one time. If junior doctors wait until the end of the post to take leave, they may not be able to take it. In general it is more beneficial to take the leave than to be paid in lieu, since payment in lieu for a day's leave is normally made at only 1/31 of a month's salary.

    How do I calculate how many days' leave I have?

    Because doctors do not generally work a conventional working week, there can be confusion as to what constitutes a 'leave week'. There are a number of different approaches to calculating a leave week. For more information, please see the Junior Doctors' Handbook [pp 96 – 98].

    How much notice should I give for going on leave?

    Junior doctors are required to notify their employer when they wish to take leave, and the granting of such leave is subject to approved arrangements having been made for cover. It is usual for employers to ask for a minimum period of six weeks' notice of intention to take leave.

    What if I'm sick whilst I'm on leave?

    If a junior doctor falls sick during annual leave and produces a statement to that effect at the time, (e.g. a self-certificate) the junior doctor should be regarded as being on sick leave from the date of the statement. Where the first statement is a self-certificate, that statement should cover the first and any subsequent days up to and including the seventh day of sickness. Medical statements should be submitted to cover the eighth and subsequent calendar days of sickness where appropriate. Further annual leave should be suspended from the date of the first statement.

    I am a member of JDC and need time off for BMA business. What should I do?

    Legislation provides for people working for trade unions to receive time off to carry out certain union duties.