Junior doctors guide to industrial action in England

Taking industrial action

Updated: Friday 16 February 2024

Guidance on this page

Working out if you can take part

Check your contract

In a pay dispute with the NHS, you need a contract with an NHS employer to be able to take industrial action.

You cannot take industrial action against a non-NHS employer. 

If you have multiple contracts

You cannot take industrial action on a day you are scheduled to work for a non-NHS employer even if you also have an NHS employer.

This is unless you take leave to participate in an action on a day you are scheduled to work for a non-NHS employer. You should check your contract does not prohibit you from doing this first.

It is also possible that a non-NHS employer could change the rota to allow you to take part in industrial action. Make sure you receive permission in writing to do this.

If your NHS employer 'loans' you out

You can take industrial action if you are 'loaned' out. This is as long as you are not impacting any other contract apart from your NHS contract.

If you are an academic trainee, read our further guidance on what your contract situation means for your ability to take industrial action.

Check your role

If you are still wondering whether you can take industrial action, take a look at our guidance below.

If you cannot find the information you need here, contact our advisors to get specific advice.

Clinical fellows

This advice refers to clinical fellows with or without university involvement.

You can take part in industrial action if you are employed under an NHS contract.

You cannot take part in industrial action as a clinical fellow if you are employed by a university.  However, you might be able to take part if you also have a separate NHS contract (such as for out of hours work). You would only be able to take action against that contract. You would not be able to take action during your academic time.

Read our full statement on who we balloted and who can take part.

Please note, if you are an academic trainee, you should read our academic trainee guidance and follow that even if you have ‘clinical fellow’ in part of your job title.

Dental trainees

This guidance refers to doctors with a specialty in dentistry or oral and maxillofacial surgery ('dental trainees') on the 2016 contract.

You can strike on the days the BMA has called for strike action if you are a BMA member or a non-member. This is as long as you are not a member of another union (i.e. you cannot strike if you are a BDA member unless you are also a member of the BMA). This includes trusts where the (BDA) British Dental Association did not reach the threshold.

FY1 (foundation year 1 doctors)

You can take industrial action. This includes if you are a new foundation year 1 doctor.

GP registrars

You can take industrial action if you have an NHS employer.

This includes:

  • if you have a single lead employer contract
  • you hold a contract directly with a GP practice
  • or if you have both.
Junior doctors

You can take industrial action if you have an NHS employer. This includes if:

  • you are in your period of grace
  • you are on a Masters of Public Health course (by not attending classes).
Junior doctors 'acting up' as consultants

You can take industrial action if you have an NHS employer.

If you are employed as a locum consultant, you cannot take industrial action.

Locum junior doctors

You can take industrial action if you are employed by a trust.

The overwhelming majority of locums are employed by trusts. You can still be employed by a trust even if you use an agency to book shifts. Locums employed by trusts are regarded as self-employed. The usual legal position regarding self-employed persons is that they are free to accept or reject offers of work as they see fit.

To find out, check your contract from your employer or look at your payslip. If you are still unsure, contact us. 

Depending on your notice period and the specific wording of your terms of engagement with the trust, we'd encourage you to cancel any shifts you’ve already booked during the strike period. Read our guidance on cancelling shifts as a locum.

Medical students

You cannot take industrial action as you do not have a current contract with the NHS.

You may receive offers to work to cover junior doctors during industrial actions. If you do, please refuse and notify us.

If you have already agreed to an offer of work you should not break this agreement. You should not seek to cancel it unless there is an explicit provision for giving notice to cancel in sufficient time. The GMC's standards for medical education and training state students must undertake only appropriate tasks in which they are competent and with adequate supervision.

Non BMA members

To be able to receive union support when taking industrial action, you need to be a BMA member. If you are not already a member, you can join here

Overseas junior doctors

You can take industrial action if you have an NHS employer.

Palliative care junior doctors

You can take part in industrial action if you have an NHS employer. Most palliative care trainees are now employed by an NHS trust lead employer.

Remember, if you have multiple contracts, you can only take industrial action against your NHS employer. See our advice above on whether you can take action.

Public health trainees

You can take part in industrial action. This is as long as you do not have an honorary contract (or anything that could be construed as an honorary contract) with a host employer that is a non-NHS employer. 

Read our full statement on who will be balloted and who can take part.

Trust grade junior doctors

You can take industrial action if you have an NHS employer.

Taking part as an academic trainee

If your main employer is an NHS employer (even with an honorary academic contract)

You can take industrial action. This includes if you have an honorary academic contract as long as that contract does not specify any NHS duties. Those we have seen do not. However, if you feel that your honorary contract does include NHS duties, please contact our member relations team.

You will only be to take action in relation to your NHS contract. Your academic responsibilities will continue as normal.

Read our full statement on who we balloted for industrial action and why.

If your main employer is a university and you do not have an honorary NHS contract

You cannot take part in industrial action because we are not in dispute with university employers.

Read our full statement on who we balloted for industrial action and why.

If your main employer is a university and you have an honorary NHS contract

You cannot take industrial action. This is due to concerns that your university contract could require you to undertake work in the NHS. As such, failing to do so would be a breach of your contract.

Read our full statement on who we balloted for industrial action and why.

Taking part: other considerations

If you provide emergency care

You can take industrial action if you have an NHS employer.

Full withdrawal from emergency care settings are included in the strike. While junior doctors are on strike, trusts will need to arrange emergency cover to ensure patient safety. We will be giving trusts and the Government enough notice to prepare for this. This is to ensure that patients whose appointments are cancelled know well in advance and to ensure that employers can manage their medical rotas appropriately to ensure emergency care is no different to any other day.

If you're employed by the armed forces

You cannot take industrial action if you are employed solely by the armed forces.

If you are on/going on maternity leave

Cancelling locum shifts

Before cancelling a shift, it is important to double-check what notice period you may be obliged to give the trust.

If your contract does not specify

You are able to cancel your shifts, but you should give as much notice as possible, which will be facilitated by the fact the BMA will be providing all employers with a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice of dates of action, so keep an eye out for our announcements of strike dates, and act quickly to notify your trust of cancellation with as much notice as possible.

If your contract specifies two weeks or less

You are able to cancel your shifts, but you should meet both the contractually stipulated notice period and aim to give as much notice as possible, which will be facilitated by the fact the BMA will be providing all employers with a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice of dates of action, so keep an eye out for our announcements of strike dates, and act quickly so you can notify your trust of cancellation with as much notice as possible.

If your contract specifies more than two weeks

You will only be able to cancel your shift if the BMA provides sufficient notice of strike action dates that allows you to meet the contractual stipulated notice period for shift cancellation – if you cannot, we would advise you to fulfil the shifts you have booked.

Support from the wider profession

Many doctors will want to show their support for junior doctor colleagues who are taking industrial action. We are currently only asking junior doctors to take part in industrial action. We have prepared guidance for consultants and separate guidance for SAS doctors working during junior doctor industrial action.

If you would like to show your support, please donate to our strike fund to support junior doctors as they take industrial action. 

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.