In my experience as employers GP Practices vary significantly in the quality and extent covered by pre-determined terms and conditions in their staff contracts. There might be a simple short contract running to a couple of pages or an extensive multi-paged document or employee handbook covering all imaginable caveats. Another way forward is to write policies every time an issue arises.
Lack of Employment Terms and Conditions leads to Inconsistency
Problems start to arise for different reasons. The Practice might be tightening its monetary belt and decide only to pay statutory sick pay when new employees are off sick whilst existing employees have better terms and conditions. Practice Nurses for instance, might enjoy better leave mimicking their previous NHS service terms and conditions rather than say the statutory 28 days leave entitlement, including bank holidays. Staff might be on an incremental pay scale and receive a cost of living increase each year whilst other employers might not be so generous and just use a fixed pay scale. Whatever way you look at it, inconsistencies arise, which might result in employees not wanting to move to another practice, find another job or grumble persistently.
Striving for Betterment
Inconsistency is one thing, but some Practices might be quite innovative in the way they offer staff Terms and Conditions. For instance, whilst there may be a standard leave allowance, it might be supplemented by extra days off for different purposes ranging from a religious holiday, to a birthday, or shopping day at Christmas. It might be a reward for not taking any sick leave for perfect attendance, or a reward for performance or long service.
Explicit Staff Terms and Conditions
All in all, for any employer it is important to have clarity and consistency in the way decisions are made about contractual terms and conditions. Here are a few areas that it would be useful to have a policy about so that staff employed know where they stand:
Carry Over Leave – for instance 5 days, unless more agreed in advance. Excessive amounts of untaken leave can arise during maternity and sick leave. Covid absences self isolating or shielding have not helped
Jury Service – Everyone in the Practice is at risk of receiving a call for Jury Service. A period of duty lasts around 2 weeks but depends on jury selection and the duration of a trial. The issue for the individual called is whether to claim loss of earnings and this will depend whether the employer is prepared to continue to pay the employees salary during their absence. There may also be a request from the employer to defer the jury service and this may only be successful if the employee is providing an essential service.
Compassionate Leave – In my experience, decisions about compassionate leave can be problematic. It could be said that the basic idea behind compassionate leave is to allow time off, say 5 days, where their has been a death of a close relative. I have also found it used to allow time off, where say a close family member, such as a child, is admitted to hospital. It is probably wise for employers to be absolutely clear for what type of absences the staff salary will continue to be paid and for what duration. The whole issue can be made more complicated by trying to administer paternal leave and paternity leave. In what circumstances, for instance, would you allow periods of unpaid leave.
Inclement Weather – Dealing with staff who either do attend work or not on a bad weather day can cause resentment – may be there is a question of rewarding those staff who turn up on a bad weather day, whilst penalising those that don’t turn up.