On the ground: stand up for your rights

by Neil Hallows

A consultant was told his contract would be ending, but some in his trust may have been ignorant of his employment rights

Location: UK
Published: Friday 19 August 2022
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A retired consultant went back to his former trust and was working 11 PAs (programmed activities) a week.

That should be a sentence to warm the cockles, given the NHS faces its biggest backlog in history, and is desperately short of doctors. But his employer did not treat him well. Out of the blue, he was told his contract would be ending.

The reason was not that the role was disappearing, or there was no longer a need for it. Instead, his employer had recruited a new consultant. Our doctor was offered four PAs a week on what would probably be a short-term basis while his successor shadowed him and settled in.

He came to the BMA with a question – how could it be a redundancy situation if the role hadn’t disappeared? He was right, but what the employment adviser also quickly established was that the trust had no right to dispose of him so easily.

The doctor had been on a two-year, fixed-term contract, which had been allowed to roll over for almost another three years. His duration of service was very important because, as the adviser knew, but perhaps some in the trust did not, employees on fixed-term contracts gain extra rights after four years.

Under the Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002, workers have a right to treat their contracts as permanent if they are successively renewed for more than four years, unless employers can come up with reasonable justifications for ending it.

The adviser raised this with the trust and was ready to also tell them that their actions may have breached equalities legislation because of age discrimination, but fortunately the trust quickly saw sense.

It meant the conversation between the trust and the doctor completely shifted. As it happened, the doctor wanted a better work-life balance, and instead of having to hang on to a job that was being unfairly taken away, he successfully negotiated, with the BMA’s help, a reduction in PAs with a permanent contract.

The doctor said the adviser was ‘absolutely great’ – he explained the doctor’s rights to him, what the outcomes might be, and liaised effectively with the HR department. The doctor said: ‘In these uncertain times I think hospital doctors would be mad not to have the backing of the BMA.’


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

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