An agreement enabling junior doctors who take shared parental leave to access enhanced pay rates has been heralded by the BMA as a real advance in workplace equality.
Doctors across England will now be able to access occupational pay when taking shared parental leave.
The change will also allow doctors who have not accrued 26 weeks of continuous employment with their employers, owing to being on rotational contracts, to qualify for shared parental leave as they can for maternity leave.
The announcement comes via staff council as a result of lobbying from the BMA junior doctors committee. Prior to the change, doctors applying for shared parental leave could only receive basic statutory pay in the first six months, meaning that parents seeking to divide their leave in those early months after having a child would be financially worse off than if the mother took it all as maternity leave.
Following lobbying by the association, the Government last year agreed to provide enhanced shared parental pay for all NHS staff.
BMA junior doctors committee chair Jeeves Wijesuriya (pictured below) said the changes were a simple yet important step towards addressing the gender pay gap within medicine.
He added that the changes, reached in agreement with the Department of Health and Social Care and health secretary Matt Hancock, represented the first fruits of the contract review, as well as an important step towards addressing the gender pay gap within medicine.
He said: ‘Starting a family represents a significant life change for anyone whatever their profession, with the prospect of becoming a parent resulting in re-evaluation of priorities and working arrangements.
‘Previously, doctors wishing to share responsibility for care following the birth of their children faced the prospect of having to take a financial hit or, in the case of junior doctors, be told that they did not qualify for shared leave due to the rotational nature of their employment contracts.
‘This has meant that parents wishing to take time away from work to share in child care have been unable to, which in turn has compelled one parent to take most of the leave and time out of their career, a situation that has contributed to gender pay disparity within medicine.
‘Going forward, junior doctors will also receive the equivalent to statutory pay for maternity, adoption and shared parental leave as well, which they have missed out on previously due to their rotational contracts.
‘Also, any time on an approved out-of-programme experience will now not affect your continuity of service and entitlement to leave.
'The NHS staff handbook reflects these changes and has been updated to include new sections on fostering for adoption, overseas adoption and surrogacy to ensure clarity and protection for staff with all types of family.’
The changes have been welcomed by one Dorset-based junior doctor, who is soon to become a father, who said that he intended to make use of the new provisions to take time out following the birth of his child.
The doctor, who asked not to be named, said that previously he would have been unable to qualify for shared parental leave owing to the fact he had not been with his employer for 26 weeks – despite having been working continuously in the NHS for the past five years.
He said: ‘A friend of mine had previously applied for leave at his hospital and was told that he wasn’t eligible for it because he hadn’t been working for that hospital for the preceding 26 weeks – which is exactly the position I’m in.
‘Our financial situation wouldn’t change all that drastically if my wife decided to take all of her maternity leave and I just carried on working,’ he explained.
Dr Wijesuriya added that the changes were about creating more choice for families and that if a mother wished to take her full maternity leave and pay, rather than convert it to shared parental leave, she was still able to do so.
He said: ‘The introduction of fair shared parental leave brings flexibility for parents and is a real advance in increasing fairness and equality within the workplace.’
What is shared parental leave
Find out what the changes mean