Junior doctors guide to strike action in Northern Ireland

On the day of strike action (full walkout)

Location: Northern Ireland
Audience: Junior doctors
Updated: Monday 19 February 2024

Full walkout guidance

Below we look at what you should do on the days of strike action depending on whether you are scheduled to work or not or if you are already at work when the strike begins.

Do not return to any shift that started within the strike period

You should not return mid-shift to any shift that started within the strike period even if the employer offers to pay you for time worked. You also run the risk of not getting paid for any part shifts.

If you're already at work

You should finish your shift. As per the GMC's Good Medical Practice, you are responsible for ensuring an effective handover. This is essential as part of a patient's continuity of care.

If you're on call

The hospital may ask those who are on call in the evening to come in during the day. If you are asked and you are a junior doctor, you can refuse.

If you're not scheduled to work

If you are not scheduled to work on a particular day of action, you personally would not need to take industrial action. You cannot have your wages deducted on this day either.

You are fully entitled to join in organised activities on the day, and we would encourage you to do so.

If you're scheduled to work a locum shift

Working locum shifts as a junior doctor during the strike (unless under an unavoidable contractual obligation will undermine the collective industrial action of junior doctors. This would likely prolong the strikes.

See our locum shift advice

If you're working for a non-NHS employer

You can potentially take leave to join the picket and other activities. This is as long as your contract does not prohibit this. See our guidance on taking part for more information.

If you are a locum junior doctor, see our guidance for taking part.

GP registrars

Legally, a GP registrar must picket at or near their place of work. They are not able to picket at a place that is not considered their place of work.
 
However, a GP registrar is not barred from taking part in a protest that takes place near to a hospital or other HSC building. If they are not part of a picket line, they are fine to join any organised protest.

Please see our guidance for GP registrars

Other considerations

If you have an exam on a day of industrial action

You are able to do an exam on the day of action and take part in the industrial action activities around that. It is possible for your employer to cancel your leave, with the required notice as per your contract. However, if your leave is cancelled, you will still be able to take industrial action and use the time to attend the exam.

You will likely lose a day of pay (as it will be counted as a day of industrial action rather than a leave day) but you will still be able to take the day for industrial action and take your exam.  For specific advice on this please email us.

If you are unwell on a day of industrial action

Workers who are absent on sick leave when industrial action takes place keep their right to sick pay.

Employers can be expected to make their own judgement as to how to regard your absence if you call in sick on a day of action.

It is likely that some employers will say that they can insist on a medical certificate from an individual's doctor to cover absence on or around the period of industrial action. This is because they believe that these are exceptional circumstances. Some contracts may include a clause specifying this. If there is not an express provision in contracts, then your employer may try to refer to their own industrial action reporting procedures. If this is the case at your workplace contact BMA and we will take up with management.

Time Out of Training (TOOT) quotas
  • For those in Foundation Year 1 and 2, if you take more than 20 days out of training (when you would normally be at work), this may lead to a review of overall performance and achievement of curricular outcomes but does not mean an automatic extension to training. Provided that outcomes are being met, there would be no justification to extend training as a result of taking industrial action.
  • For those in Core/Speciality training, if you take more than 14 days out of training (when you would normally be at work), this may lead to a review of overall performance and achievement of curricular outcomes. Provided that outcomes are being met, there would be no justification to extend core training programme end dates, or CCT dates, as a result of taking industrial action.

FY1s generally must complete 12 months of training (full time equivalent) before being eligible for a Certificate of Experience and to apply for full GMC registration. The GMC supports foundation school directors implementing this requirement flexibly to reflect (including in any reviews) the nature and history of absence, the timing and the effect of the absence on achieving the necessary outcomes. The focus should be on meeting the outcomes and the competence required by FY1 doctors.

Read our full guidance

Still have questions?

If you can’t find the information you need in this guide, then you can contact us and we will add the answers to these pages.

Or email our member relations team if you have a question about your personal circumstances.