SAS Doctors' guide to strike action in England

Employment rights and pressure from employers

Location: England
Audience: SAS doctors
Updated: Monday 29 April 2024

As your union, we can support BMA members who may run into difficulties due to taking action. If you encounter any such difficulties, or would like further advice on your rights when taking industrial action, you should contact us as soon as possible. 

We are not able to support any non-members who decide to take industrial action. We would urge you and your colleagues to join the BMA in advance of any industrial action. 

The law and industrial action

The law recognises the importance and legitimacy of trade unions, collective bargaining, and industrial action. The right to freedom of assembly and association, which includes trade union membership, is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998. While taking part in industrial action is not entirely without risk, trade union law includes powerful employment protections for those taking part, including against unfair dismissal. These protections apply to both UK citizens and doctors working in the NHS on visas.   

Based on the BMA’s experience of industrial action, we think it is very unlikely that doctors would face dismissal by their employers. The BMA would provide any support necessary for members who were subject to threats of dismissal. 


Doctors working on visas are entitled to participate in industrial action.

More detailed information about striking on a visa will be shared before strike action is called, and if you have questions about your specific circumstances you can contact the BMA’s immigration advice service.

What to tell your employer

Your employer may ask you if you plan on striking. You are not legally required to respond to questions about whether or not you are taking industrial action.  

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. 

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