The model contract states that a full-time salaried GP works 37.5 hours per week. It is possible to work less than full time or to work additional hours, with the exact hours being a matter of negotiation between the salaried GP and the employer. The model contract also requires a job plan to be agreed and appended to the contract. In setting out the full-time hours of work, the model contract states that this is calculated to be nine nominal sessions, with each session being 4 hours and 10 minutes.
In reality, many salaried GPs opt for flexible working patterns, therefore in determining hours of work, salaried GPs and their employers may prefer to refer to the actual hours or part of hours (rather than nominal sessions) worked.
Changing hours of work
An employer may want to change a salaried GP’s hours of work on a permanent basis because, for example, they are looking to extend the practice’s opening hours. While employers cannot unilaterally change a salaried GPs hours without the risk of an action for unfair dismissal being brought against them, it is possible for the terms and conditions (including hours of work) to be changed.
There are five main ways in which this may be done:
- By explicit negotiated agreement between the salaried GP and the employer.
- Where agreement is already contained within the contract prior to the change, ie if there is a contractual right to vary the contract. BMA members should send their contract to the BMA to check that this is the case (it should be noted that there is no contractual right to vary the contract in the model salaried GP contract).
- By collective agreement where the contract specifies that such changes will be incorporated. Again, to check whether a contract of employment contains such a contractual term, the contract can be sent to the BMA.
- By performance of the contract – if a salaried GP works to the new hours then they could be deemed to have accepted a change by performance. Thus, if a change occurs which a salaried GP is concerned about then the salaried GP needs to clarify with the employer that they are not agreeing to the change and should seek further advice from the BMA.
- By the salaried GP being dismissed from their contract and then being offered a new contract on different terms. This would only be expected to occur in extreme circumstances. The salaried GP It is also possible that, where a salaried GP is unable to change their hours, the employer may dismiss the salaried GP without re-engaging them. As above, this is an extreme measure and legal redress may be available to the salaried GP as a claim of wrongful and/or unfair dismissal. For more information please see chapter 18, of the Salaried GP Handbook.
How to avoid problems occurring
If an employer is looking to change a salaried GP’s hours of work, the BMA recommends that they have a meaningful discussion with the salaried GP before reaching any decisions. Communication, involvement and engagement are generally the key to practices managing any change successfully. Similarly, salaried GPs should consider the proposal carefully and discuss this with their employer.
Below are some key recommended steps to be taken by both parties:
Step 1 - Setting out the proposed change – this includes setting out the details of the proposal in writing so that it is clear and can be considered fully by both sides. This can include the following:
- whether the proposal is for an increase in the salaried GP’s working hours or a re-arrangement in working hours
- a range of alternative options to consider (eg in terms of the hours available since some staff may be able to cover different hours)
- whether the new hours will include time for administration
- the impact that the re-arrangement of hours will have on attendance at team meetings and the ability for clinicians to communicate
- whether the remuneration will remain the same or will be at a higher rate to take account of any anti-social hours
Step 2 – Consideration of the proposal fully. In doing so it is worth bearing in mind how the proposed change fits in with professional development aspirations, personal development plan and any actions agreed during their recent performance review.
Step 3 – Responding to the proposal - After considering the proposal, carefully consideration should be made regarding how to respond. As in any negotiation, listening to the reasons for the change and engaging in the discussion is the key for both parties.
Step 4 – Employer’s consideration - The employer should consider the offer made by, and/or reasons given by, the salaried GP, and review how these can be accommodated.
More details of the process can be found in the Salaried GP handbook.
If the salaried GP is unable to change their hours and the employer insists on a change
If the employer is not willing or able to consider changing the proposal, then salaried GP BMA members should contact the BMA immediately for individual expert advice on how to handle the particular situation and to discuss options. Similarly, GP employer members should contact the BMA to ensure that they act within the law in order to prevent any negative repercussions.
If a change to hours of work is accepted
Salaried GPs who agree to their hours being changed should request a draft revised contract of employment and a draft new job plan. We advise that the salaried GP should have these checked prior to working to the new arrangements. BMA members should contact the BMA immediately so that the proposed revision to their contract and job plan can be checked.