BMA guidance will ensure you’re aware of your leave entitlements as a junior doctor.

Key fact:    If you are taking time off from the training programme for sickness, maternity/paternity/adoption leave or jury service and the sum of these absences exceeds 14 days in any 12-month period, then a review of training should be undertaken and the expected date for end of training adjusted if required. This does not apply to periods of annual leave or study leave.

Read:          Para 5.1.9 of the Gold Guide

Annual leave

What am I entitled to?

  • The amount of annual leave is determined by your grade and, in the case of specialty trainees, your current incremental pay point.

Read: Overview of your Annual leave entitlement

  • The following grades are entitled to take five weeks of annual leave:
    • Foundation year 1
    • Foundation year 2
    • StRs, StR(FT)s and SpRs on the minimum, first or second incremental points of the payscale.
  • The following grades are entitled to take six weeks of annual leave a year:
    • StRs, StR(FT)s and SpRs on the third or higher incremental points of the payscale
  • For less than full time (LTFT) trainees your annual leave is pro rata for the hours that you work.  For example, a LTFT trainee working 60% of a full-time rota should receive 60% of the entitlement to annual leave and 60% of the entitlement to public holidays. This may lead to fractions of days and you should still seek to take these.
  • If you fall sick during annual leave and provide a self-certificate as statement to that effect at the time you should be regarded as being on sick leave from the date of the statement. The self-certificate as statement should cover the first and any subsequent days up to and including the seventh day of sickness. Medical statements should be submitted to cover the eighth and subsequent calendar days of sickness where appropriate. Further annual leave should be suspended from the date of the first statement.

Public Holidays

What am I entitled to?

  • 8 public holidays and statutory days a year as set out in the contract of employment
  • The precise dates can vary between, and even between employing NHS board authorities. The actual days designated as public holidays will be agreed through the BMA Local Negotiating Committee (LNC)
  • Until recently doctors were entitled to 10 public holidays. In 2021 the BMA reached agreement with the Scottish Government and NHS Employers to apply the substitution of two public holidays with three additional annual leave days on a permanent basis for all secondary care doctors.

Read: DL Annual leave and public holiday entitlements

Zero-hour days and public holidays

What am I entitled to?

  • You are entitled to receive paid days off for contractual public holidays. When a public holiday falls on a day you are required to be on duty (including between midnight and 9am) you are entitled to receive the day as leave or to get another day back as leave in lieu of it.
  • A ‘zero hour’ day – often known as ‘off’ days cannot be double-counted as public holidays. This means that where you are on rota to do a zero-hour day on a public holiday, you should receive a day in lieu.

Read: MSG guidance 2014/2 Zero-hour days and public holidays for junior doctors in Scotland

Supporting the work-life balance of junior doctors

Fixed leave

BMA Scottish junior doctors committee (SJDC) have been discussing with the Scottish Government and employers, ways in which fixed annual leave can be reduced or eliminated and called for leave to be guaranteed to juniors to attend significant life events.

SJDC have reached agreement that fixed leave in time becomes the exception. Where fixed leave is in use, local systems should exist to allow junior doctors to agree their leave periods allowing for leave to be taken at a time when the junior doctor wishes.

Where possible, junior doctors will be notified six weeks before the commencement of any confirmed period of leave. SJDC have reached agreement that by August 2020, this will be a requirement for all rotas where fixed leave remains in use. 

Read:  DL on fixed leave

Leave for significant life events

What am I entitled to?

  • BMA SJDC reached agreement with Scottish Government and NHS employers so that junior doctors may take annual leave for significant life events:

Employers recognise the importance of doctors taking annual leave for significant life events and will normally allow annual leave to be taken for such life events (for example a wedding). Where possible, doctors will provide a minimum of six weeks’ notice of annual leave to be approved. There may be significant life events that determine the doctor to give less than six weeks’ notice, and in these cases, doctors must notify the employer requesting leave as early as possible.

Read: DL (2018) 16 Improving junior doctor working lives – Leave for significant life events

What if I’ve been refused leave to attend a life event?

  • If you have requested leave for a significant life event such as a wedding and have been refused time off contact your rota coordinator in the first instance and the BMA for advice and support.

What compassionate leave am I entitled to?

  • You should contact your lead employer board HR/medical staffing for a copy of their local policy for guidance on this. This may be referred to in local policy as “special leave” and is usually discretionary.  There may also be an option to take unpaid leave; this should be discussed with your supervisor or programme director in the first instance.
  • If you have been granted compassionate leave you should not be put under pressure to return to work earlier than the date you have agreed with your employer.
  • Contact a BMA advisor on 0300 123 1233 for advice and assistance.

Sick leave

  • You must follow your employer’s absence procedure. You should find out at induction what the procedures are and the policy should be available via TURAS
  • You are contractually obliged to notify your employer immediately if you are not fit to attend work. You should advise of the nature of your illness and, if possible, how long you expect to be absent. Absence up to seven days is self-certified and the relevant certificate will be available from your medical staffing/HR department. After seven calendar days of sickness absence, a medical certificate completed by a doctor other than you should be submitted, ie a fit note.

    It is the employer’s responsibility to arrange appropriate cover. The employer has no right to request a doctor who is absent due to ill health to make the necessary cover arrangements. Nor should the doctor be put under any pressure when absent to repay the cover at a later date.

What am I entitled to?

  • If you are absent from duty due to illness, injury or other disability, junior doctors receive the following sick allowances.

During the first year of service one month’s full pay and (after completing four months’ service) two months’ half pay

During the second year of service two months’ full pay and two months’ half pay

During the third year of service four months’ full pay and four months’ half pay

During the fourth and fifth years of service five months’ full pay and five months’ half pay

After completing five years of service six months’ full pay and six months’ half pay

  • For junior doctors sick pay should include the banding supplement.

Read:    BMA guidance on sickness absence

Read:    BMA guidance on your responsibilities when asked to provide cover for absent colleagues

Maternity, paternity and shared parental leave

If you are considering starting a family or are pregnant, we strongly advise you to contact the BMA for individual advice and to support you throughout your pregnancy and maternity leave.

You can call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233.

Going on maternity leave?

Contact: BMA to receive an automatic reduction in your BMA subscription fee.

Read:    BMA Maternity leave guidance and FAQs

Use:       BMA Maternity leave calculator

What am I entitled to?

A junior doctor working full time or part time will be entitled to paid and unpaid maternity leave under the NHS contractual maternity pay scheme if:

– you have 12 months’ continuous service with one or more NHS employers at the beginning of the 11th week before the EWC (expected week of childbirth)

– you notify your employer in writing before the end of the 15th week before the expected date of childbirth (or if this is not possible, as soon as is reasonably practicable thereafter) of your intention to take maternity leave and of the date you wish to start her maternity leave

– that you intend to return to work with the same or another NHS employer for a minimum period of three months after her maternity leave has ended – and provide a MATB1 form from your midwife or GP giving the expected date of childbirth

Following discussion with your employer they should confirm in writing:

 – your paid and unpaid leave entitlements under this agreement (or statutory entitlements if the employee does not qualify under this agreement)

 – unless an earlier return date has been given by the employee, the junior doctor expected return date based on 52 weeks’ paid and unpaid leave entitlement under this agreement

– the length of any period of accrued annual leave and accrued leave for public holidays which it has been agreed may be taken following the end of the formal maternity leave period

 – the need for the employee to give at least 28 days’ notice if you wish to return to work before the expected return date.

Key facts for maternity leave:

  • If you take time out of training for maternity leave your pay will be protected; your incremental date will not be changed or be pushed back.
  • The service you have with your current employer will be used to determine your eligibility for statutory entitlements such as your ability to claim statutory maternity pay. To be eligible for statutory maternity pay you must meet certain criteria, including the length of time you have been with your current employer. This means you must have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the qualifying week – the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
  • Where this isn’t met, you may still be eligible for maternity allowance
  • The second type of continuous service is your NHS continuous service which can include past NHS employers. This type of continuous service will be used to calculate your reckonable service and your entitlement to certain occupational benefits. For example, this will include entitlements such as sick leave and occupational maternity leave. As such you must have 12 months continuous NHS service, without a break of 3 months or more, at the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth to be eligible for NHS occupational maternity entitlements. If eligible for occupational maternity pay, the payments you receive will be broken down as follows:
  • for the first eight weeks of absence, full pay, less any Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance (including any dependants’ allowances) receivable;
  • for the next 18 weeks, half of full pay plus any Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance receivable, providing the total receivable does not exceed full pay.
  • for the next 13 weeks, any Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance that you are entitled to under the statutory scheme

Paternity leave

  • Employees are entitled to paternity leave if they have, or expect to have, responsibility for their baby’s upbringing and are either or both the biological father of the baby and/or the mother’s partner.
  • You must have worked continuously for the same employer for 26 weeks
  • You can choose to take either one week or two consecutive weeks’ paternity leave; it cannot be taken as odd days or two separate weeks.
  • You should not be asked to arrange or find your own cover to allow you to take paternity leave.

Read: BMA Junior doctor handbook

Shared parental leave

  • SPL (Shared parental leave) is a statutory right which provides eligible parents with more flexibility in how they share the care of their child in the first year following birth or adoption.
  • SPL allows for a maximum of up to 50 weeks’ leave to be shared between parents. They can decide to be off work at the same time or take it in turns to be on leave to look after their child.
  • If you are a BMA member with questions about SPL, please contact one of our employment advisers.

Supporting trainees returning to training and work

Read: the BMA guidance on how to prepare for a good return to work after an extended absence whether due to ill health, parental leave or other reasons.

See: NHS Education for Scotland (NES) Return to clinical practice guidance for any trainee who has been absent for three months or more for whatever reason.

Study leave

Study leave is sometimes also called professional leave. It is granted for postgraduate education or teaching purposes. It includes study (usually but not exclusively on a course), research, teaching, examining or taking examinations, visiting clinical and attending professional conferences. Study leave is available for specific educational and training needs that can’t be obtained through the training programme.

What am I entitled to?

The following trainees are entitled to 30 days of study leave per annum:

  • F2 (Foundation Year 2)
  • CT (core trainees)
  • LAT (locum appointment for training)
  • ST (specialty trainee)
  • DCT (dental core trainee)
  • DStR (dental specialty registrar)
  • *F1 doctors are not eligible for study leave, although there are opportunities available for taster courses

Read: NHS Education for Scotland guidance on Taster courses and how to apply

Professional leave

Professional leave is another name for study leave – see above. 

Trade union leave

What am I entitled to?

Read: BMA guidance for paid time off work to take part in the activities of the BMA as a local representative.


Further information and guidance

DL (2018) 16 Improving junior doctor working lives – Leave for significant life events

BMA guidance and FAQs on leave for junior doctors

NES study leave guidance for doctors and dentists in training

MSG guidance 2014/2 Zero-hour days and public holidays for junior doctors in Scotland

NHS Scotland PIN policy – Supporting the work/life balance