Junior doctors guide to industrial action in England

Employment rights

Updated: Friday 19 July 2024

As your union, we can support BMA members who may run into difficulties due to taking action. We are not able to support any non-members who decide to take industrial action.

What to say to your trust

Some trusts are starting to organise shadow rotas in anticipation of strike days. If you are asked by your trust in advance or on a strike day, please note:

  • You are not legally required to respond to such questions and to do so would undermine any action we do take
  • You may respond by saying that the BMA has advised you that you are not obliged to answer

If your employer is insisting that you provide them with this information, please contact your local BMA representative for support.

However, if you are asked after you return to work you should respond truthfully.

What the GMC says

The GMC emphasises your legal entitlement to take industrial action. It is important you are clear on the GMC guidance on the duties of a doctor. This guidance is not removed or modified by taking industrial action.

Take reasonable steps to hand over patients

The guidance in Good Medical Practice states the doctor has a duty of care to ensure the safety of patients to whom they are delivering care. This duty extends to ensuring that reasonable steps are taken to achieve the safe hand over of patients under their care. See 'Good Medical Practice' paragraph 44.

Your duty of care does not extend to patients no longer in your care

A doctor who has properly handed over care of his or her patients cannot be said to be under a professional obligation enforceable by the GMC. The GMC acknowledges that during industrial action doctors’ employers will have a vital role in planning and preparing for how patients will be cared for. See 'Good Medical Practice' paragraph 14.


Additional advice

The BMA will support members if an employer takes action against them as a result of their involvement in industrial action.

Find out more about the terms of this support by reading your contract of membership in the 'My BMA' section. 

Wellbeing advice

We recognise the impact engaging in industrial action can have you on your wellbeing. If you require any support, please contact our wellbeing and support services.


Still have questions?


If you can't find the information you need in this guide, send us your questions here and we will add the answers to these pages.


Or contact our member relations team at [email protected] if you have a question about your personal circumstances.