Do Locum Doctors Have a Notice Period
Locum F3 doctors often mistakenly think that by leaving contracted employment, they lose their employee rights like sick pay, maternity or paternity leave, rest breaks, and annual leave. However, this is not necessarily true. It's important to understand your contract and your rights, and to know what you are entitled to or you may miss out on money and other benefits.
In this article we will focus on locum doctor rights and responsibilities around notice periods.
You can learn more about employment rights in these articles:
When doctors decide to become locums, their careers and work patterns change significantly and in a number of ways.
1: Locum doctors are responsible for managing their own rotas and schedules. This can lead to overbooking themselves, as they often forget to schedule rests and holidays into their timetables.
2: Locum doctors often work ad-hoc shifts across multiple departments or Trusts which can result in stress or frustration if a rota-coordinator or consultant moves you to cover another area last minute.
3.Locum doctors can agree to cover an unfilled rota line as a long-term locum, but without a contract they may feel pressured or obliged to adapt their plans around those of the permanent staff on the team.
4. Locum doctors’ family or health circumstances may change over time and they may find that they are no longer able to work on days they had previously said they were available.
In all of the above scenarios, it is common that locums may want to or need to cancel shifts that they have previously agreed to, but whether or not this is permitted, and how much notice of cancellation you are required to give can be confusing.
⚠️ Employment Rights: Notice Period
If you are working locum shifts through a staff bank it is usually acceptable to cancel shifts up to 24 hours before the start time of the shift, and sometimes even 24 hours notice is not required. However, this can work both ways and rota coordinators can also cancel on you with very little notice.
This applies whether you are a long term locum or an ad-hoc locum, and therefore it can be difficult to plan a schedule or income if a Trusts circumstances change and they decide they no longer need you.
If you are working through an agency, or have any kind of contract (incuding a zero hours contract) it is worth checking the terms and conditions of the contract to check for cancellation policies and notice periods. Some agencies may penalise you for cancelling shifts without the proper notice, and similarly if a Trust or agency cancels on you without meeting the agreed notice period then you may be entitled to some compensation for any costs incurred or income lost due to the cancellation (i.e. if you have travelled for a shift).
As a locum doctor you have the right to cancel shifts that you have previously agreed to but are not able to, or do not want to attend provided you adhere to any notice period policies outlined in your contract.
If you are sick, you may not need to adhere to your notice period - read more about sick leave for locums in this article.
You may have an obligatory notice period but it is not uncommon for this to be 24 hours or less. Be sure to check any contract that you have (either with your agency or a zero hours contract with your staff bank) for information about notice periods or cancellation policies.
Notice periods work both ways, and rota coordinators or agencies can cancel work on you if your assistance is no longer required. This can make it hard to plan or guarantee income.
Whether you have an obligatory notice period or not, if you need to cancel any shifts that you have previously agreed to it is best practice to give as much notice as reasonably possible. This helps to preserve good relationships with your agency or staff bank and demonstrates that you are reliable and a good communicator.
This article is part of a wider series of comprehensive guides and information to help doctors ensure their F3 year is a success. We cover everything from initial planning, options for moving abroad, help with finding work, and tips for making the most of the experience.
Click here to visit our F3 Resource Hub to explore the full list of guides and articles.