On the ground: sick pay and COVID

A doctor who covered shifts on a COVID ward, then succumbed to the virus, received lamentably low sick pay until the BMA stepped in

Location: UK
Published: Friday 15 October 2021
41747 hospital staff

The health service has needed all the doctors it can get throughout the pandemic.

This was particularly the case during the early days, when doctors were being drafted in from other specialties, and some retired doctors were given the chance to re-register.

The doctors who put themselves forward did so at considerable personal risk. But when one doctor covered shifts on a COVID ward, and contracted the virus, the sick pay was lamentably low.

The junior doctor was hit hard by the illness. She was off for three weeks, and then four more following a brief return to work. When she asked about sick leave, she was told that locums on zero-hour contracts normally did not receive it at all.

But, given COVID presented such risks to doctors, the employers had decided to average out previous earnings over a reference period and pay sick leave on that basis.

The problem for this doctor is that she had been recovering from an unrelated illness prior to the COVID locums, which significantly reduced the average earnings in the reference period chosen by the employer.

The doctor’s BMA employment adviser took the matter up with the HR department. HR was initially reluctant to budge but, after several discussions with the BMA, it agreed to apply the reference period in the most favourable way possible and base the sick pay on the time when the member had previously worked the most shifts.

The BMA adviser said the case took a considerable amount of discussion with the employer, but it had produced a more positive outcome for someone who was putting her own health at risk by looking after COVID patients at a time of national crisis.

The member said the adviser had been ‘fantastic’.

To talk to a BMA adviser about work-related issues, please contact us.

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