Understanding Your Rights as a Locum Doctor
So you’ve made the decision to have an F3 year. If you’re going to do a fellowship or a Trust grade post then you'll probably be signing a similar contract to doctors in training, and will therefore have the same rights as a permanent employee.
But some of the questions we're asked most often are about what employee rights locum doctors are entitled to...
In this article, we’ll explore this topic to help you understand your employee rights as a locum doctor with regards to key things like annual leave entitlement and other employment issues.
🏖️ Annual Leave
If you're working as a locum doctor, you'll be entitled to the same benefits as regular employees after 12 weeks with the same employer. This means you'll be entitled to the same statutory paid annual leave as permanent employees on a pro rata basis.
Many NHS Trusts will pay holiday pay in lieu of annual leave entitlement to locum doctors. This is due to the difficulty of scheduling this with intermittent and short-term working arrangements.
This will usually be rolled up into your agreed hourly rate, but it’s worth checking this when you’re agreeing that rate with the Trust. Your payslips should clearly state which parts of your pay are from salary and which parts are holiday pay, which will allow you to easily keep track of this.
😴 Rest Breaks
Your booking terms and conditions should state the rest break policy that the Trust has for locum bookings. Most Trusts don't pay for rest breaks and they'll set out rest break requirements per shift. For example, many Trusts will require between 20 and 30 minutes of rest breaks taken per every six hours worked.
If you find you're not getting the rest breaks you're supposed to, it’s worth discussing this with the rota co-ordinator or booking co-ordinator.
Unless there's an extenuating circumstance, like a particularly unwell patient which prevents you from taking your break, you're likely to be told that rest breaks are compulsory and will not be paid, but this may raise an issue with unsafe working if it's a persistent problem.
🤒 Sick Pay
If you were to ever become ill, or need to self-isolate, then you need to know what you’d be entitled to, and you should plan your finances accordingly.
It’s worth checking your terms and conditions for each job, but usually as an agency worker you wouldn’t be entitled to pay for missed shifts if you were to need to take time off sick.
If you were doing Bank shifts, this may change. Some Bank workers have been paid by the Trust for shifts they had booked in advance which they could no longer work. In this situation, it’s best to find out what happened from colleagues who’ve been in a similar situation before, and ask the HR department for advice.
⚠️ Notice Period
It's always important to check each individual position's notice period, from both your side and the employer, which should be laid out in the terms and conditions for each job you take on.
Generally, most Trusts can cancel shifts up to 24 hours before the start time, and sometimes not even 24 hours of notice is required from them. This usually works both ways though, so the same rules would apply to you if you decided to cancel a shift.
It’s worth remembering this when planning your schedule because, even if you have a long-term locum position booked, if the circumstances of the Trust change they could still theoretically cancel your shifts at very short notice.
Best practice would obviously be for both parties to give a reasonable amount of notice, and most Trusts do. If they cancel at short notice too often then they'll be risking damaging their relationships with locum agencies and doctors.
✅ Our Top Tips
1. Check whether your hourly rate includes holiday pay and make sure this is clearly distinguished on your payslip.
2. Check your rest break requirements and try to take them wherever possible.
3. Take your sick pay into account when planning your finances. For extra help, see this article explaining how to make a living as a full-time locum.
4. Check the terms and conditions of your notice period when booking shifts.
5. If any employment issues arise, consider taking out a union membership. They will advise you on your rights and represent you if any problems arise.
If you follow the tips above, it will help you to make the most of your time locuming and have a positive experience. Hopefully this article will leave you with solid understanding of what employee rights you'll have as a locum, which will get you well prepared when approaching your exciting new work situation.
We're also working hard to provide you with a guide for each of the main specialties, giving you tips on how to settle into those departments. These will be especially useful if you haven’t rotated through that specialty in your Foundation Training rotations before.
This article is part of a wider series, supporting doctors like yourself with a comprehensive set of guides to ensure your F3 year is a success. These guides 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.
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