On the ground: recouping pay

by Neil Hallows

A doctor was underpaid for six years. Through patient work, the BMA helped him get back the money he was owed

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 13 April 2022
slip of pay

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but once the NHS makes a mistake with your pay, it can be the beginning of an unbroken series of errors that can carry on for years. 

A junior doctor had been put on the wrong nodal point at the start of one of his jobs. With each new job that followed, the calculation of his pay was based largely on what he received in the previous one, so the errors compounded. 

It was only a chance conversation six years later with a colleague, once he had achieved his certificate of completion of training, that led him to realise he had been underpaid for so long.

He queried it, but the demands of the job made it impossible for him to put in the necessary time to follow it up. This is where the persistence of a BMA employment adviser proved to be vital.

She went back to each previous employer. With the facts firmly on her side, they were cooperative, but it was a complicated task. 

There were Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration pay rises to be taken into account, incremental increases, all the ‘extras’ for possibly two pay rates in one rotation, and the doctor had transferred from the 2002 juniors’ contract to the 2016 one during the six years which had been affected. 

It took about a year and required just under 200 emails and phone calls. The adviser says: ‘To be fair to each employer, they all accepted the principle once they saw the data, then it was just a question of admin in getting the sums approved and for payroll to actually make the payments. 

‘The member was very organised and had nearly all his payslips and contracts which made things very much simpler! Mainly my role was presenting the evidence, clarifying where there was error, being persistent and following up when deadlines passed.’

Pay errors like this are all too common, although the period of time and number of rotations involved made this one particularly tricky. Once resolved, the member was in line for more than £8,000 in pay arrears. 

He said the BMA had provided him with excellent advice, and had remained persistent and engaged.

He said to the adviser: ‘I have found NHS trust payrolls and human resources departments difficult to navigate and negotiate with in the past, but [the BMA’s] clarity of approach, and advice regarding tone of communications was key to making this endeavour successful. 

‘At the start of this process in truth I held out little hope of achieving appropriate recompense. Through [the BMA’s] wise counsel and attention to detail the claim has been successfully resolved.’

The adviser says the key in successfully pursuing the case was that the doctor had all the information that was required. 

Doctors should download and keep their payslips, like he did. It can be easy to think that everything is available online if required, but access to the pay system is likely to be lost when doctors change post, and it can be hard to chase the information afterwards. 

The same applies to contracts and work schedules. Pay issues can be pursued for up to six years in the courts.

Whether they’re in a neatly colour-coded file, or a shoebox in the attic, those little slips of paper are well worth hanging on to.

To talk to a BMA adviser about a work-related issue, call 0300 123 1233 or email