Moving from the 2008 to the 2021 England SAS contracts

The current Government offer to SAS doctors in England might prompt questions from doctors about the benefits, downsides, and process of moving from the 2008 to the 2021 contract. Read about what this involves.

Location: England
Audience: SAS doctors
Updated: Thursday 1 February 2024
Contract and pen article illustration
This guide refers to SAS 2008 and 2021 contracts in England specifically

It is written with regards to the Government offer made to England-based SAS doctors. We are aware there is contract variation across the four nations, which is not covered on this page

The Government’s offer to SAS doctors in England includes a realignment of 2021 SAS pay scales (both for specialty doctors and specialists). It will not, however, provide an increase in basic pay to those on other, closed contracts (e.g. those that SAS doctors can no longer join, including 2008 and pre-2008 contracts).  

If this offer is accepted and made into a deal, SAS doctors working under closed terms and conditions may wish to consider changing contracts to access these new pay scales. The option of making this move is offered on an indefinite basis.

We are conscious, however, that there are outstanding concerns around the 2021 contracts. We also understand that while some would see a significant financial benefit in making the move, others might not (for example, associate specialists at the top of their pay scale).

The below FAQs have been designed to address common questions around moving to the 2021 contract.

If you have other questions related to this, or to the Government offer more generally, please get in touch with the BMA by emailing [email protected]

Changes to basic pay for SAS doctors moving from the 2008 to the 2021 terms and conditions

If the Government offer is accepted, new 2021 England specialty doctor and specialist pay scales will be implemented. See the value of these pay scales.

You can also see a comparison between the current England 2008 and the proposed 2021 specialty doctor pay scales.

The change to your pay depends on your current years of experience and the current pay scale you are on.

In some cases, it may benefit a doctor to wait before switching contracts (for example, a 2008 specialty doctor with five years of experience may wait until they have reached six years to enjoy a significant increase and avoid a temporary pay cut). As the option to move is offered indefinitely, SAS doctors can time their move according to their personal interests.

We are conscious that associate specialists at the top of their pay scale would not see an increase in basic pay by moving to the open contracts at any stage.

Doctors consider transferring to the new contract would go through a process, during which their employer must provide a written statement of the job plan and salary package you would receive under the new contract. If the doctor is not happy with this package, they can choose to stay on their current contract.

Find out more about the process below.

Benefits of moving to the 2021 SAS terms and conditions

Beyond pay, the 2021 contracts introduced a number of benefits and safeguards that members can access by transferring:

  • New safeguards to protect SAS doctors and their work-life balance (e.g. an agreement that the majority of work - no less than 60% - should take place in standard working hours and that elective work should not normally be scheduled to finish later than 9pm unless mutually agreed. In addition, when a doctor is scheduled to work after a busy night call, it should be for the doctor to declare, with no detriment, that they are too tired to work [with any displaced time/activity rescheduled, or where possible covered by colleagues, or if necessary cancelled, without affecting a doctor's earnings].)
  • Flatter pay scale to better reward SAS doctors throughout their careers and help reduce the gender pay gap.
  • Increased on-call supplements in line with consultants.
  • Enhanced pay and provisions for shared parental leave and child bereavement leave.
  • An additional day of annual leave after seven years in the grade in England.

Note that the above sets a minimum amount of leave. Any locally agreed arrangements that sit outside of the national contracts remain at the discretion of the employer, and it is not intended that the 2021 contractual entitlements will replace any locally agreed arrangements relating to annual leave entitlement. If, for example, you have access to two days of additional annual leave through a local policy this will continue to be the case regardless of your transfer.

Downsides of moving to the 2021 SAS terms and conditions

  • The extension of plain time/standard hours to 7am–9pm on weekdays (which is 7am–7pm on weekdays on the 2008 contracts). This would mean work is paid at standard rates until 9pm on weekdays, and that out of hours (OOH) work would start after this. This does not mean you would have to work longer, or that you would be expected to regularly work until 9pm.
  • Changes to the redundancy arrangements in England to bring them in line with the Agenda for Change terms and conditions of service, which are less beneficial.
  • There is no equivalent right to decline elective work in premium time to the one currently in the associate specialist contract.

Find out more about the 2021 SAS contract.

FAQs

How would the extension of plain time/standard hours affect my pay?

Under both 2008 and 2021 SAS contracts in England, out of hours work is paid at a rate of time-and-a-third.

This could translate to:

  • Being paid more for a four-hour OOH programme activity
  • Completing an OOH PA in three hours

Work completed between 7-9pm weekdays (Monday to Friday) under 2008 terms and conditions attracts a time-and-a-third rate but would be paid at the standard, plain time rate under 2021 terms and conditions.

The impact this would have on an individual doctor moving to 2021 terms and conditions depends on their personal circumstances. This includes the amount of work they complete between 7-9pm weekdays and the difference in basic pay between the two contracts. 

To illustrate the possible impact, we have developed case studies looking at how plain time extension could impact several different doctors, with different working patterns.

The 2021 contracts extend the definition of plain time/standard hours, meaning it end at 9pm rather than 7pm. Will I be expected to work until 9pm daily?

No. The extension of plain time will mean that work done between the hours of 7-9pm is remunerated differently than it would be under 2008 terms and conditions. It does not, however, mean that SAS doctors will be expected to consistently work until this time. Timings of PAs will be set out in the job plan you agree with your employer.

The 2008 terms and conditions have no protections when it comes to the proportion of OOH, and SAS doctors on the closed contracts may well be rostered to work evenings.

There is a concern that Trusts would specifically choose to use those on 2021 contracts for evening work as a money-saving means. In the years since the introduction of the new terms and conditions, we have not witnessed this become a systemic issue, and the reality of secondary care would make it quite difficult to target SAS doctors in this way (considering the current difficulties around workforce shortages and covering shifts).

We will, however, remain vigilant to this, and any members with concerns about this behaviour are urged to contact the BMA. 

Will I have to work extra hours if I move to the new contract?

No. As part of the transfer process, you would enter into a job planning process (see below), but your number of PAs would remain the same (unless you agreed to change them).  

There is a local agreement within my Trust that I will receive two extra days of annual leave after seven years of service. The 2021 contract only guarantees one. Will I lose the second day?

No. The 2021 contract sets a minimum, not a maximum, amount of annual leave. Any agreements already in place hold; other Trusts may choose to offer a second day in the future as a retention measure.

Would my job plan be reviewed if I moved to the 2021 contract?

Yes. Once you express an interest in moving to the new contract, you and your employer would enter a job planning process.

This would involve looking at your current work pattern and salary journey. You and your employer would jointly decide whether any changes are needed or not.

It is worth noting that SAS doctors' job plans are meant to be reviewed on an annual basis, even if they are not changing contracts.

The transfer process

The process of moving would look like this:

Step 1 - Expressing interest

If you tell your employer that you want to transfer to the new contract, you will begin a process of transition.

An expression of interest is not legally binding (schedule 20 of the terms and conditions) and it does not mean you are obliged to transfer. What it means is that you agree to enter into the transitional process in good faith and with the expectation of transferring.

Step 2 - Job planning and pay journeys

Once you express an interest in moving to the new contract, the expectation is that you and your employer will enter into a job planning process. You will review your current work pattern and your salary journey. You and your employer will jointly decide whether any changes are needed or not.

In the salary journey detail, you should ensure that the latest DDRB pay uplift is included in your existing salary. You should also factor in any future possible DDRB recommendations for pay increase - although it is not possible to predict what these may be.

Where either you or your employer suggest changes with which the other does not agree, you can both use the usual job planning mediation and appeals processes before you make a final decision about transferring.

Doctors can ask their medical staffing team to enter the proposed job plan into their Trust’s software to give an exact breakdown of PAs and remuneration.

Step 3 - The offer

After the job planning meeting, your employer must provide a written statement of the job plan and salary package you would receive under the new contract.

In many cases, we would expect individuals’ pay to increase as a result of transferring to the new contracts. However, if transferring would result in any reductions to your pay, such as through the changes to plain time, your employer should let you know at this point.

Step 4 - Accept or decline

If at this point you have been unable to agree to a new job plan with your employer, are unhappy with any changes they are proposing to your working patterns, or are not willing to accept any reduction in pay, you are under no obligation to move to the new contract.

After your employer has made the final offer, you will have 21 days in which to either accept or decline. If you choose to decline, there will be no detriment to you and you will remain on your existing contract, job plan, and pay arrangements.