Over the past two weeks, I have been involved in delivering two virtual workshops on parental leave with the BMA and the education, training and workforce policy group of the GPs committee. These followed many months of work to collate information around maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave for GPs, and formulating it into a single parental leave guide.
Questions around maternity and parental leave are some of the most frequently asked of the BMA by GPs. We understand that many GPs and their employers often are unaware of what entitlements exist, and this is an area that often leads to disputes.
Additionally, female GPs in their 30s are amongst the highest group leaving general practice, which likely coincides with the time of becoming a mother.
We knew that we had to do something to better support parents, and their employers, to help them navigate this tricky time. By providing all the information around parental leave in one place, we hope that the topic will be easier to understand and prevent some of the common pitfalls.
GP maternity and parental leave webinar – 2 December 2020
This focused on talking through the guide; from the things you need to consider before having a child to returning to work as a parent and how to juggle your new responsibilities, as well as how to manage those common childcare crises. For example, many people are unaware that during pregnancy employers must undertake a risk assessment for women to ensure that their working environment is safe. This is particularly important during the COVID pandemic when women should not see patients face-to-face after 28/40 gestation. Other important employer obligations include ensuring clean, safe, private rest facilities for breastfeeding women when they return to work so they can feed, or express and store milk.
We also covered the financial entitlements for salaried, locum and partner GPs and how to claim them. This varies based on your contractual status, so it is important to be aware of what you are entitled to before planning a pregnancy. An exciting recent change is the entitlement for salaried GPs to take shared parental leave. This enables them to split leave between themselves and their partners. This will hopefully contribute to a reduction in the gender pay gap between male and female GPs, as well as providing more flexibility around how to care for children during that first year of life.
When returning from leave it’s also important to think about how you wish to work going forwards. That might mean applying formally for flexible working or considering the GP retention scheme. There are so many ways to approach parenthood and working as a GP and hopefully, this guide and the webinars outline those options clearly for you.
GP maternity and parental leave webinar – 9 December 2020
Karthiga Gengatharan, of Surrey and Sussex LMCs, delved deeper into the intricacies of finances for GPs taking parental leave and how this might affect employed and self-employed GPs differently.
Paula Wright of the sessional GPs committee spoke about how to deal with appraisal around the time of maternity/parental/adoption leave. She advised undertaking discussions with your appraiser and responsible officer as soon as you know you will be going on leave. That way you can decide with them whether it is best to have an early, late or approved missed appraisal. We also discussed some top tips to ensure that your time away from work and your return are as successful as possible.
Sarah Westerbeek is a member of the sessional GPs committee executive team