Advice: Job planning and Covid-19

Job planning is an integral part of the Consultant and SAS doctor employment framework.

It should still take place in the context of Covid.

This is a mutual process - it is not acceptable for an employer to simply impose new working conditions.

Where no mutual agreement can be reached between you and your employer to a change, then there is an established process of mediation and final recourse to a formal appeal.

If you are unhappy with a proposed job plan then we would advise you to contact HCSA for further advice.

Temporary Covid job plan changes

It is reasonable for an employer to ask you to change your shift patterns to meet the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic. You are advised to carefully consider your own health and wellbeing before agreeing to any changes

Pre-existing understaffing has been exposed starkly during the pandemic. While the NHS has prioritised non-Covid work, this cannot be traded against the long-term sustainability of the workforce.

HCSA believes that failure to take into account the physical and mental health and wellbeing of hospital doctors is a recipe for disaster in months to come. You should therefore consider offset new Covid-19 responsibilities by reducing other duties in your PA allocation.

We are also concerned that some more unscrupulous employers may try to take the opportunity of the immediate challenge to force through unwarranted permanent changes to job planning which are detrimental to individuals.

HCSA has produced a template letter which makes clear that any mutually agreed changes to job plans due to Covid-19 are temporary. We recommend that this letter is deployed to safeguard your pre-existing agreed job plan.

If you believe that that you are being required to work additional hours/overtime that risks compromising patient and/or your own safety, then you should advise your employer immediately (keeping a record of this) and request an adjustment to your workload to ensure that you remain within the bounds of safe working.

If you have any concerns about this issue, contact HCSA for support and advice prior to agreeing to a new job plan.

SPA time

HCSA is deeply concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on SPA time, which was already being heavily squeezed in many areas prior to the pandemic due to systemic understaffing.

In an emergency it may be necessary to convert SPA time into direct clinical care, but this should not be the default position. SPA time should where possible be protected rather than given away.

In emergency situations where employers attempt to forcibly convert SPA time into DCC, employers should not also expect doctors to perform the work previously earmarked for SPA time. Where you are expected to perform both, it is reasonable to request payment for the additional hours or to claw back SPA time from later DCC time once the emergency period has passed.

Where an employer refuses to take this into account, you are advised to contact HCSA for advice and support.