On the ground: pay protection

A basic error by an NHS employer could have cost a doctor thousands of pounds, but some determined work by a BMA employment adviser rescued his financial security

Location: UK
Published: Monday 11 January 2021
on the ground the doctor jan

There are specialties in which there is a severe shortage of doctors, and so it makes sense that those willing to train in them are given a little extra help when they need it. One source of help comes from pay protection.

This applies, in certain circumstances, for career-grade doctors wanting to return to training. To qualify, they need to have at least 13 months’ continuous service in the same nationally recognised career-grade post at the point immediately prior to re-entering training, and to move immediately from that to a hard-to-fill training programme.

In this case, the doctor met the conditions. He was a specialty doctor returning to training to become a GP. His problem arose from the incorrect use of one word by his former employer. It described him as a locum in correspondence with his new employer, leading it to conclude wrongly that he lacked the necessary continuous service.

It was a simple mistake by the employer, and so it should have been easy for them to correct. But in the months leading up to the doctor starting his new job, it took a considerable effort from a BMA employment adviser to resolve the matter.

When the doctor got in touch with the BMA, it was two months before he was due to start his new job. He had already tried to raise the issue with his manager, and although they offered verbal support, little had been done.

This is where the persistence and expertise of the employment adviser came in. She sent the doctor’s contract to the new employer, which made it crystal clear he was not a locum.

Almost two weeks passed so she chased the old and new employers. Another two weeks passed, and she chased again. A succession of calls and emails to which a doctor in a full-time position would find it difficult to commit the time and energy.

Confirmation arrived just before the doctor was due to start his new job. Without the pay protection, his salary would have been more than £6,000 lower.

Terms and conditions are complex, and HR departments make mistakes, but what this illustrates is the brick wall that doctors so often face when they are trying to correct something incredibly simple – in this case his basic employment status.

The doctor said he had been very stressed, as it would have been difficult for him financially to be in a training post without salary protection.

He added: ‘BMA membership is necessary, and I would recommend it for every practising doctor in the UK.’

On The Ground is a regular column in The Doctor that highlights practical help given to BMA members in difficulty