And if proposed changes go ahead with junior doctor contracts, female doctors could lose out more than men...Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s proposed new contract for junior doctors has been causing outrage for weeks and weeks and weeks now. With numerous Facebook posts going viral, protests and strike action, we've been keeping a close eye on the action.
But if you're confused about why the proposed changes warrant striking, worry not. We've analysed who will be affected by the contract changes, how serious they are, and who'll be most severely affected.
And surprise, surprise: it's women.
Yep, the proposed new contracts could disproportionately affect female junior doctors and discourage them from entering into the profession and penalise them for taking time off.
Here we examine how and, more importantly, why:
If junior doctors choose to take maternity leave, their pay won’t be protected.
The British Medical Association (BMA) have argued that ‘medicine should be a profession for all’ in relation to the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) proposal that a trainee’s pay should no longer be protected if they choose to take time out for maternity leave, if they decide to retain in a new specialty, need to take time out for ill health or disability or undertake a period of time out in academic research.
The Medical Women’s Foundation claims that this change will financially penalize women looking to have a family and ‘may discourage women from continuing in Medicine as a career’. While men can, of course, take paternity leave, it’s for a maximum of 26 weeks and is only paid if the mother is not taking maternity leave pay.
The removal of incremental pay increases
Under the current system, doctors in training receive incremental pay rises every year including those who train less than full time (LTFT), meaning that those who take longer to complete their training still receive pay increases. If the new proposed contract system was to come into practice, LTFT junior doctors will receive no pay progression despite gaining experience and competency as pay will be based on training and level of responsibility instead potentially stumping their pay packets for years.
With more than one in 10 doctors working LTFT and the majority of these being women – often returning from maternity leave - according to the Medical Women’s Federation, it’ll be the fairer sex who bare the brunt of the contract changes with cuts of up to 40% in pay according to the BMA.
Reduction in break times
Through removing a banding system which penalizes employers from overworking trainees and reducing breaks from 30 minutes over 4 hours to 20 minutes every 6 hours, the BMA has argued that patients will be at risk.
Dr Andrew Hartle, president of the Association of Anesthestists of Great Britain and Ireland has also warned that the reduction in break times will also be detrimental to doctors working while pregnant.
Changes in unsocial working hours
If you’ve not been keeping your eye on your Facebook page of late, you may have missed the barrage of junior doctors who have been posting pictures of them working on weekends accompanied by the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy.
Jeremy's new contract will reclassify normal working hours known as ‘plain time’ to include Saturdays and with hours up to 10pm every night of the week bar Sunday all being paid at a normal rate.
With many junior doctors living away from their families to train, the changes in contracted hours and docked pay have begged the questions as to whether it will make financial sense for those with families to work and pay for childcare.
The bottom line...
While the proposed changes have been endorsed by the DDRB, a recent poll by the BMA shows that 99% of the 4500 doctors-in-training who responded feel that the recommended changes are not acceptable and therefore, they've elected to not re-enter negotiations.
Are you a Junior Doctor? Tell us what your feel about the changes in the comments below.