Junior Doctors and the Alternatives to Striking
In recent months junior doctors under the British Medical Association (BMA) have organised several strikes in response to the government’s proposal to change doctor’s working hours (and other such terms). However, taking strike action sacrifices wages, time and ultimately may cause delays and frustration to patients sat on the waiting list.
From a legal perspective, the government proposal amounts to a unilateral variation of contract. In situations like this, the employee can either accept the proposals or reject them. If junior doctors feel that their employer has breached the terms of their original contract, they may resign and bring a claim for constructive dismissal. However, there is a risk that an employment tribunal may find that the government was acting reasonably and their claim would then fail.
On the other hand, there are more ways to reject the government’s proposals than simply striking or resigning. If junior doctors do not accept the proposed changes, an alternative is to simply carry on working under the terms of their original contract. It would then be up to the government to decide the next steps. If the government is unable to force an agreement the only option is to dismiss them.
Considering the mounting pressures already facing the NHS, this is extremely unlikely.