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Some of the most common queries we come across are about maternity and paternity leave, as junior doctors on rotational training contracts can find themselves in more complex situations than the average NHS employee. Most of the maternity/paternity leave eligibility and rights for junior doctors reflect those for agenda for change staff; but junior doctors do rotate, and it can be tricky both for you and medical staffing departments to work out what exactly you are entitled to.
We’re very aware that not everyone who goes LTFT does so for reasons of childcare, and we will be covering other issues in future blogs – do bear with us!
How much pay should you receive?
All employees are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave, or two weeks of paternity leave, regardless of their length of service, but eligibility for the different elements of pay varies. In order to be eligible for NHS occupational maternity pay, you need to have been working for the NHS (across one or several NHS trusts) for the 12 continuous months leading up to the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth, whereas for statutory maternity pay you need to have been working for the same employer for 26 continuous weeks by the beginning of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. This is where things often get tricky, if your NHS employer changes while you are pregnant, who is responsible for paying your statutory maternity pay?
If you aren't eligible for statutory maternity pay, you may qualify for maternity allowance, which is simply paid through a different route. Please refer to Section 15 of the Agenda for Change terms and conditions of service handbook – these provisions also apply to junior doctors; and also to the gov.uk website. These also detail arrangements and eligibility for shared parental leave and adoption leave and pay.
If you have any doubts, contact the BMA first point of contact at [email protected]
Planning your maternity/paternity leave
Try to have conversations as early as possible with your employers about when you are planning to take leave and how long for. You should inform them by the 25th week of pregnancy, and should you change your mind about your start date or when you will return to work, you need to give 28 days’ notice. You do not have to give a date for the commencement of your paternity leave, you can give an approximate date. Remember that you accrue annual leave whilst on maternity or paternity leave.
Your return to work
If you have any queries about your return to work, refer to the Academy of Medical Royal College's return to work guidance. The checklists in the guidance may be particularly useful when planning your return to work. You can also contact a BMA adviser about any concerns or queries you have.
All regions in England now have dedicated supported return to training (SuppoRTT) programmes, including dedicated courses and guidance. To find your local programme speak to your deanery.
It’s very important that you are not thrown in the deep end when you do go back to work. It is normal to feel apprehensive about your return. To protect patients and yourself, if you have been off work for a significant amount of time, ensure you are given thorough induction and a period of supervised practice. Keeping in touch (KIT) days may be beneficial – these can be part or full days and can be spent shadowing at work, or doing other training activities that are relevant to your work, and are paid at your usual daily rate, with any maternity pay deducted (which means that they will be paid better if you do them in the latter or unpaid parts of your maternity leave). Plan and discuss KIT days with your educational supervisor in advance – they are useful but are not compulsory. Note that section 15 of the agenda for change terms and conditions of service handbook (which applies to junior doctors) states: ‘to enable employees to take up the opportunity to work KIT days, employers should consider the scope for reimbursement of reasonable childcare costs or the provision of childcare facilities.’ This isn't by any means a ‘must’, but it's a reasonable ask, and worth mentioning in your discussion.
On your return to work, you have the right to request flexible working if you wish. Your employer doesn’t have to allow it, but in practice most requests are approved. Make sure you have early discussions with your deanery, trust, and education and clinical supervisors about your work pattern and days of work – are there particular training opportunities or mandatory activity on certain days of the week? Do you have an allocated job share? This will allow for successful planning of your return.
Please do get in touch with us with your thoughts, suggestions and questions, via [email protected].
Maddy Fogarty-Hover and Ruth-Anna Macqueen are co-chairs of the BMA LTFT forum.
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