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The way junior doctors do their training made it impossible for most to share generous NHS package for parents
Doctors can now take shared parental leave after the NHS agreed to British Medical Association lobbying on the issue.
Remarkably up till now male junior doctors, the very people often involved in bringing babies into the world and making sure they’re well, weren’t able to take time off to look after their own children.
While female junior doctors had to take on more childcare because they were excluded from taking shared parental leave.
Because junior doctors rotate through different hospitals as part of their training many were missing out on beefed up paternity leave and pay and shared parental leave. Each hospital they worked in was considered a new employer. That was a particular problem for men who don’t qualify for paternity leave or pay as a day one right. And it meant all junior doctors struggled to build up the necessary 26 week qualifying period of work to be eligible for shared parental leave.
However the junior doctors committee of the British Medical Association (BMA), the closest thing doctors have to a trade union, has been lobbying to allow any time working in the NHS to count as qualifying service.
The NHS has now agreed to their demands meaning junior doctors who become parents can split up to 6 weeks’ full pay, inclusive of the statutory pay entitlement and 18 weeks’ half pay which is boosted by the statutory pay entitlement. There’s a further 13 weeks on statutory parental pay and 13 weeks unpaid available to NHS staff.
Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, chair of the BMAs junior doctors committee said that the changes were a simple yet crucial step towards addressing the gender pay gap within medicine. Starting a family represents a significant life change for anyone whatever their profession, with the prospect of becoming a parent resulting in re-evaluation of priorities and working arrangements,” he said.
“These new rules give junior doctors more choice and flexibility in how they share and take leave to care for their children in those vital early months. Previously, doctors in training would generally be worse off if they chose to split their leave between two parents rather than one parent taking all the paid entitlement. Before the change in rules on eligibility for shared parental leave too, it would have been impossible for some junior doctors on rotational contracts to get enough service to qualify for the leave entitlement. Now they can, many more families will be able to share leave in that first year.”
Doctors on the frontline have also welcomed the move. Lizzie and Andy Moriarity are both doctors but because Andy is still training and rotating between hospitals he was unable to clock up the six months service necessary to access shared parental leave when their son Euan was born last year.
Lizzie said, “When we had our second son, Euan, we did consider Andy taking shared parental leave but, under the old rules, he would have been only eligible for statutory parental pay, rather than the occupational maternity pay I’m entitled to. This has a huge effect financially and therefore wasn’t an option for us.
“As trainee doctors, we work on a rotational basis at different hospital trusts which means we go from one employer to another and so miss out on many of the benefits and entitlements received by those staff who work continuously for one employer, such as childcare vouchers.
“We’ve always seen ourselves as parents first and doctors second, and as any parent knows, while bringing up children is rewarding, it’s also hard work and being able to share the load equally with your partner makes such a difference. If we chose to have another child, we would definitely benefit from the new changes.”