Check your rota - BMA rota checker

We've developed a set of easy-to-use tools for junior doctors to check their rotas.

Location: UK
Audience: Junior doctors
Updated: Wednesday 1 May 2024
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Rota checker for junior doctors in England

Once you have your rota, check that it is compliant with all the rest and hours requirements of the 2016 TCS.

If your rota is not compliant, the tool will highlight this and provide you with a summary which you can either share with us or your employer.

You must be signed in as a BMA member to use the tool.

Use rota checker


Rota checker guidance

The BMA has developed an easy-to-use online rota checking tool for junior doctors in England to check their rotas under the 2016 contract.

The terms and conditions for the 2016 junior doctor contract includes a range of new safe working hours restrictions and rest requirements, meaning that many junior doctor rotas will need to be re-designed in order to ensure they are compliant.

Our policy is that it is best for all parties if junior doctors are involved closely with the design of their own rotas, and we encourage employers and employees to work together, ensuring junior doctors have a say in making sure the rotas work for them.

Read the latest guidance on managing rotas and duty rosters for junior doctors working under the 2016 contract in England.

Not got your rota yet?

We know how distressing and disappointing it can be when your employer is delayed in supplying your new rota in a timely manner ahead of starting in a new post. It is now a contractual requirement for your employer to provide you with your generic rota and duty roster, 8 and 6 weeks respectively, prior to your commencement in a post.

If you haven’t received your rota or duty roster in a timely manner, please check our guidance about next steps, or get in touch and speak to one of our employment advisers who will be able to advise you on the process and liaise with your Trust.

Check your rota

Once you have your rota, check that it is compliant with all the requirements of the 2016 TCS.

If you have a query relating to your rota, speak to an employment advisor.

Read the joint rostering guidance

Check your rota

Do your research

If a rota is going to work well it is best if everyone on the rota feels it works for them and, where possible, that they are engaged in the design process.

Ask colleagues what their concerns are about the rota to identify any big issues early.

Also try finding out, for instance from your educational or clinical supervisor, rota co-ordinator or medical staffing, further information which could help you better understand the working pattern for the particular rota. For example, take a look at bleep histories if available, clinic or theatre times and any available data on peak admission times.

Contact your RJDC who can help you find out this information.

Make sure the right type of shift is used

Ensure your employer uses on-call arrangements properly and safely. There is a specific clause in the contract which aims to prevent employers rostering additional juniors to work on-call duty for what should be a full shift (sometimes known as a 'shadow' rota).

It is set out in the contract that if you feel this working pattern is being included in your rota inappropriately you have the right to raise it.

Check for fair night working practices

The contract sets out that night shifts - for this purpose defined as a shift which begins no earlier than 20:00 and no later than 23:59 and is at least 8 hours in duration - receive an enhancement of 37% on basic pay for the whole shift, up until 10:00 the next day.

Similarly, any individual hours worked between 21:00 and 07:00 get the 37% enhancement - but just the hours worked in that time window, not the whole shift.

If you notice an employer trying to start night shifts slightly earlier, for example at 19:30, in order to avoid paying the enhanced rate for the whole shift, you do not have to agree to it. The contract explicitly refers to the need to ensure shifts with hours worked during the night period are rostered in the correct way.

What to expect from your employer

Your employer should be willing to design rotas collaboratively with you and your colleagues and to understand the concerns and issues of their employees when starting the process.

  • Rotas are designed collaboratively and co-operatively

Designing rotas cooperatively can assist in ensuring everyone, both employers and employees, who are affected by the rota have had input before it is implemented.

  • Rotas are completed and communicated in good time

It is vital that you receive your rota well in advance, to ensure you can plan your life around work.

Your employer is contractually required to share with you your template rota eight weeks and the duty roster to six weeks before your post start. This means that you are able to request leave when you receive a copy of your rota template, so that this can be built into the final roster.

The above Code of Practice deadlines are now part of the 2016 TCS, although there are a number of exemptions which permit a delay in an employer sharing your rota template and duty roster in accordance with these timeframes.

  • Follow rules banning fixed leave

The practice of ‘fixed leave’ is not acceptable for those working on the 2016 contract.

In exceptional circumstances, where agreement on planning leave is not possible, some leave may need to be allocated to ensure that all doctors are able to take their full leave entitlement while maintaining safe coverage of services.

However, leave should not be fixed into a working pattern for this or any other reason without your agreement.

  • Ensure the rota has safe levels of staffing

Make sure you check that the rota you are working on has a fixed minimum level of staffing, with sufficient time built in for proper handover.

If you have any concerns that there are not enough doctors to cover the rota, raise it immediately with your manager. The contract includes a provision for junior doctors to be compensated for all extra work they do if they have to work unplanned extra hours like covering rota gaps or under staffing, however it is important for employers to ensure safe and well-staffed rotas to avoid a potentially unsafe situation.

Rota gaps are a major problem that are a significant focus for the guardian of safe working hours, so make sure your rota is not signed off if you are concerned that there are gaps or a potential for gaps to form.

Rota rules at a glance

The below sets out all the key contractual rest and safety rules of the contract. This, along with the tool itself, should allow you to assess whether your rota has been correctly designed and reflected in your work schedule. This allows you to monitor the compliance of your working patterns, and empower you to exception report when breaches occur.

It should be used in conjunction with the full working hours terms set out in Schedule 3 of the TCS.

Hour limits and breaks Definition or additional information
Max average of 48 hours work per week Max weekly average across a reference period (length of the rota cycle, placement, or up to 26 weeks, whichever is shorter). Automatic fine will apply where breached - responsibility of guardian to monitor all exception reports to identify when this occurs.
Max 72 hours work in 168 hours (7 consecutive days) Automatic fine will apply where breached - responsibility of guardian to monitor all exception reports to identify when this occurs
30 minute break for 5 hours work, a second 30 minute break for more than 9 hours, and a third 30 minute break during a night shift at least 12 hours long ( breaks can be taken individually, or combined as close to the middle of the shift) Automatic fine will apply where breaks are missed at least 25% of the time across a 4 week reference period - responsibility of guardian to monitor all exception reports to identify when this occurs
Shifts and rests Definition or additional information
Max 13 hour shift length Maximum individual shift length
Max 4 consecutive long shifts, at least 48 hours rest on conclusion of the fifth shift* *By mutual agreement, the limit of consecutive long shifts can be increased by one to 5 consecutive long shifts. A shift rostered to last longer than 10 hours. Where a long shift finishes after 23:00 and before 02:00 the long daytime/evening rule applies (see below)
Max 4 consecutive long daytime or evening shifts, at least 48 hours rest on conclusion of the fourth shift A shift rostered to last more than 10 hours finishing after 23:00. Where a long daytime/evening shift finishes at 02:00 or later it falls in to the definition of a night shift (see below)
Max 4 consecutive night shifts. 46 hours rest must be provided at the conclusion of a run of night shifts, regardless how many night shifts are worked, even if just a single night shift is rostered. A shift with at least 3 hours of work between the periods of 23:00-06:00. Rest requirements apply all runs of night shifts, even a single night shift.
Max 7 consecutive shifts or working days (except low intensity on-call), at least 48 hours rest on conclusion of the final shift* *By mutual agreement, the limit of consecutive long shifts can be increased by one to 8 consecutive shifts or working days. Applies to 7 consecutive shifts of any length, or 7 consecutive days on which work occurs. There is an exception for low intensity on-call – where an on-call duty on a Saturday and Sunday contains less than 3 hours of work and no more than 3 episodes of work per day, up to 12 consecutive shifts can be worked (provided that no other rule is breached).
At least 11 hours continuous rest between rostered shifts Breaches of rest subject to time off in lieu (TOIL) which must be given within 24 hours. In exceptional circumstances where rest is reduced to fewer than 8 hours, time will be paid at a penalty rate and trainee will not be expected to work more than five hours of a shift rostered the following day, without detriment to pay. A guardian fine will also apply.
Weekend work Definition or additional information
Max frequency of 1 in 2 weekends can be worked across the rota cycle. However, an employer should be taking every effort to ensure that no trainees are working a frequency greater than 1 in 3 weekends. Any shift or on-call duty period that where any work falls between 00:01 on Saturday and 23:59 on Sunday. An exception applies to trainees at nodal point 2 (see below)
On call Definition or additional information
Max 24 hour on-call period Maximum individual on-call period
No consecutive on-call periods other than Saturday and Sunday. No more than 3 on-call periods in 7 consecutive days A maximum of 7 consecutive on-call periods can be agreed locally with your consent, but only where safe to do so and where no other rules are breached
Day after an on-call period must not have work rostered longer 10 hours Where Saturday and Sunday on-calls are worked consecutively, this rule applies to the day after the Sunday on-call
Expected rest of 8 hours per 24 hour on-call period, 5 hours must be continuous between 22:00-07:00 If it is expected that rest will not be met, worked rostered the next day must not exceed 5 hours. Trainee will inform employer when rest requirements are not met, TOIL must be facilitated and taken within 24 hours or the time will be paid
No trainee to be rostered on-call for the same period being worked as a shift by another trainee on that rota Except where there is a clearly defined clinical reason for doing so that is agreed by the clinical director, and with guardian & DME agreement that the working pattern is safe and educationally appropriate

Rota checker FAQs

How should I enter my hours into the rota checking tool?

The rota checking tool uses a similar format as you would expect to receive from your employer in the rota template provided with your work schedule. This will allow you to easily replicate your rota and test its compliance.

Some rotas may reflect shifts differently when working hours cross between two days. For example, a Monday night shift starting at 9pm and finishing at 9am on Tuesday morning may be reflected as a single 21:00-09:00 shift entered on Monday.

Alternatively, the same shift may be reflected as a 21:00-00:00 shift entered on Monday and a 00:00-09:00 shift entered on Tuesday. Either of these entry methods for the shift can be used on the tool without affecting the calculation of your results.

How do I enter an on-call duty into the rota checking tool?

The definition of on-call work under the 2016 contract applies to periods of duty where you are required by your employer to be available to return to work or to give advice by telephone but are not normally expected to be working on site for the whole period. This is commonly known as non-resident on-call.

You can register on-call duties on the tool by clicking the square box next to shift time input boxes. When entering the shift timings for your on-call you will need to specify the expected hours of work within the on-call duty. The prospective amount of work during the on-call period should be reflected in your rota template or will need to be confirmed by your employer.

Where the working hours of an on-call cross between two days, for example, a Monday night on-call starting at 17:00 and finishing at 08:00 on Tuesday morning, this should be entered as one single duty and should not be split into two separate shifts.

My rota contains shift timings that are not multiples of 15 minutes. How can my rota be checked?

We anticipate that most rotas will contain shift timings based on multiples of 15 minutes.

However, should you be issued with a rota that has different timings, you can send it to our employment advisers who will check it for you.

What should I do if my rota is not compliant?

If your rota returns an uncompliant result, your employer will need to make the necessary revisions to address the elements of your rota that do not adhere to the contractual safe working limits as highlighted by the checking tool.

If you require support in raising the issue with your employer, please contact our team of dedicated employment advisers.

How does the rota checking tool assess the maximum 72 hours of work in any 168 hours period?

No doctor should work more than 72 hours in any 168 hour period (the number of hours in 7 days). As such the 168 hour period will be assessed from the start time of a shift entered on a day rather than from 00:00. 

Where an on-call duty is entered that overlaps a 168 hour reference period, the tool will average the expected hours of work across the length of the on-call shift and assess from the proportion of hours falling in that 168 hour window whether a breach would occur.

Why does the rota checking tool only allow a maximum of 26 weeks to be inputted?

In calculating the average hours of work, the 2016 contract uses as a reference period of either; the length of the rota cycle, the length of the placement or 26 weeks, whichever is the shorter.

This is to reflect the reference period as defined in the Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended), which is currently 26 weeks.

If you are issued with a 52 week rota, you should check the reference periods for weeks 1-26 and 27-52 respectively.

The result of my average weekly hours from the BMA’s rota checking tool differs to the result I have received from my employer. Why is this?

In calculating the weekly average hours, the BMA rota checking tool calculates the average weekly hours of work across the rota reference period before average annual leave entitlement is deducted.

Some generic work schedules provided by employers may deduct the average annual leave entitlement across a rota reference period, which will provide a slightly different result. We would advise that you also check that the result inclusive of average annual leave deductions does not exceed the 48 hours limit.

A function to incorporate average annual leave entitlements may be included in a future release of the tool. In the interim, members can send their rota checker results to our employment advisers who will manually calculate this for you.

Can I still be rostered to work more than 1:3 weekends?

The contract recommends that no rota rosters junior doctors to work more 1 in 3 weekends after.

However, it was accepted by both the BMA and NHS Employers that this provision may not be achievable on all rotas. If an employer believes it is not feasible for a rota to function at a frequency of 1:3 weekends, or less, then the appropriate clinical director for the rota should set out the clinical justification for retaining the rota at a higher frequency, which the guardian of safe working hours must adjudge to be appropriate.

This justification should be clearly set out and shared with the affected doctors. Following this justification, rotas which exceed the 1:3 weekend frequency should be co-produced with the affected doctors and agreed via the junior doctor form (JDF). All rotas which exceed the 1:3 weekend frequency should be reviewed annually to assess whether it is still necessary to retain the rota at a frequency greater than 1:3 weekends.

The rota checker has checkbox which enables you to indicate whether your rota is adhering to the 1:2 weekends or 1:3 weekends limit. If you select the ‘Not sure’ option when asked whether an exemption has been granted for your rota, the rota checker will test compliance against both the 1:2 and 1:3 limit.

Can I choose to work above the maximum 7 consecutive days and 4 consecutive long days?

Where both employer and doctor agree, through local processes, that it is safe and acceptable to both parties, the maximum number of consecutive shifts may be increased by one (to a maximum of five consecutive long days and eight consecutive days).

The guardian of safe working hours and the junior doctor forum must be consulted where any concerns around safety or acceptability are raised. Any agreement will be reviewed annually and doctors on such a rota will have the right to request a work schedule review at any time.

For both of these rules, we have developed checkboxes for the rota checker which enable you to indicate whether your rota is adhering to the revised rules.

The rota checking tool advises that my rota is compliant, but I still have concerns over how well my rota is designed. What can be done?

The rota checking tool will tell you whether a rota is compliant with the rules set out in schedule 3 of the 2016 TCS. However, just because a rota is compliant with the rules doesn’t mean it is a good rota.

There are a number of elements that must be incorporated into the design of a rota. For example, the requirement that the working pattern is educationally appropriate and allows you to meet the planned training outcomes during your placement, that the working pattern maintains the provision of safe care to patients, and that the working pattern provides the ability for leave to be taken flexibly.

Our guidance on good rota design provides a range of advice and tips for ensuring that rotas are not only compliant with the letter of the rules but also the spirit. Key to this is the involvement of trainees in the rota design process from the start.

Rota design, compliance with the schedule 3 rules and overarching compliance with the full requirements of the TCS will be underpinned by the work scheduling process. The contract specifies that your employer must take adequate account of reasonable requests from you when agreeing your work schedule, to ensure your work and training fits around your life.

If the tool says your rota is compliant with the rules but you still have concerns, raise these with your supervisor when you meet to personalise your work schedule, and don’t agree to finalise the schedule if you are still not happy.

If you would like support from the BMA, please contact our team of dedicated employment advisers. They can help you challenge bad rotas locally.


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