On the ground: member penalised

by Neil Hallows

Pay docked for an employer’s error

Location: UK
Published: Friday 15 July 2022
slip of pay

When a junior doctor rotates during training to a new trust, there is often a wearying ritual they must go through. It is not uncommon for something to be wrong.

It could be with work schedules, rotas, pay, the contract, where they are supposed to be working or regarding pre-employment checks, which every new employing trust has to ensure are completed before a doctor can be cleared to work in a clinical environment.

No one expects employers to be perfect, but there are far, far too many errors, which can sometimes take years of unpicking. What is particularly disappointing about this case is that the doctor was expected to pay for the employer’s mistake.

The doctor was two weeks into a new rotation when he was told that he had missed having an occupational health clearance. This was the employer’s fault. The member was not informed he could not start his new rotation, nor was his department advised of the same. Furthermore, the employer added a huge insult to injury by telling the doctor that he would not be paid for the two weeks he had already worked. The doctor contacted the BMA.

The employment adviser allocated to support the member wrote to the head of medical staffing at the hospital, explaining that the member had worked in good faith, carrying out all his duties and the failure in completing the checks was their error, not the doctor’s, so it would be unreasonable of the employer to penalise this doctor by not paying him his wages.

The adviser had radio silence from the employer so patiently chased it up and tried to arrange a telephone meeting. She then advised the member to instigate early conciliation with ACAS to protect his claim in this case as it was deemed to be an unlawful deduction from wages claim, if the employer persisted in not paying him.

ACAS can talk to the claimant and respondent about a dispute at work, giving the chance for agreement without having to go to an employment tribunal. Soon after ACAS got involved and likely the employer realised they could not ignore this situation any longer, the employer started engaging with the BMA adviser and conceded to pay the doctor his full two weeks of salary.

The occupational health clearance was completed within days of the trust realising the error. One way to lessen, if not entirely eliminate, the bureaucracy as well as the chance of errors that junior doctors go through with each new job would be to have a single lead employer for the whole of the programme, as per BMA policy.

The BMA believes it would have a number of benefits, such as eliminating the need for repeated DBS checks. While employers messing up the practicalities of junior doctor employment is all too common, the BMA adviser said a case where an employer has made a mistake then subsequently docked pay without the agreement of the doctor was, thankfully, very rare in her experience of more than 15 years with the BMA.

Through the persistence and dedication of the BMA adviser, this matter was resolved to the member’s satisfaction and he commented to say he was pleased to have it resolved without it becoming burdensome on him as he left the matter to be managed by the employment adviser.

This case was resolved over a period of four weeks following the dispute arising, and our member is happy for it to be used as an example to warn others of what can go wrong and the benefit of contacting the BMA at the first sniff of a problem at work to get informed advice and support with a view to reaching an early resolution.


More from on the ground