Leave

As an FY1 doctor, there are different types of leave you will come across during the year and the rest of your career. This article will talk about annual leave, study leave and sick leave.

If you’d prefer a video guide to Employment topics, check out our free course “Employment Essentials“. You can also find relevant articles covering leave, well-being, ensuring work-life balance & other employment topics here.

Annual leave

As an FY1 Doctor, you are allowed 9 annual leave days per four-month rotation which is 27 days of annual leave plus statutory bank holidays per year. You might be eligible for more (if you worked in the NHS before) or less if you’re LTFT

  • Familiarise yourself with local policy of how to apply for annual leave for your department as there will be variation between departments and trusts.
  • USE IT OR LOSE IT! I learnt this the hard way in my FY1 year as I lost four annual leave days I could have taken. If you do lose them, you should be paid for them as workdays.
  • Once you get your rota before you start your next rotation, plan in advance when you want to take your annual leave and liaise with your department as soon as possible to get those dates approved.
  • If you have any special occasions you need to attend, like birthdays or weddings, check if you are working that day.
    • If you are not working or on a normal ward day, this is good news as you do not need to swap shifts to get leave approved.
    • All you need to do is check with your rota coordinator and ward team to see if there is enough staff on and then fill in the necessary paperwork to take your leave.
    • If you are on-call, then make arrangements as soon as possible to arrange a swap of shifts and off-days with a colleague ensuring there is an adequate cover on both your wards.
  • Some places use fixed leave where the rota coordinators allocate your leave. Whilst this is allowed, you can ask whether it can be moved or pick a rota slot that allows you to get leave when you’d like

Off-days or zero days

These are days you have off before and after your on-calls to ensure your rota is compliant with the European working time directive.

  • Depending on which rotation you are on, you will have several on-calls and with that you will have “off-days”
    • For example, as an FY1 at my previous trust in general surgery, if you worked the weekend 9am-5pm ward cover, you would have Friday off and have Monday and Tuesday off.
    • Using this example, these off-days allow you to be smart with your leave as you can use 3 further annual leave days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) to end up being off for 7 days in total (including the weekend).
  • Also if you work a bank holiday or have an off-day on a bank holiday following an on-call, you will be entitled to claim back a day in lieu which can you can combine with your annual leave to have more extended periods off. This is irrespective of how long you work on that day e.g. a night shift on Christmas day to Boxing day = 2 days off in lieu.

Study leave

This is leave that is applicable to specific educational and training needs not obtained via the training programme (for example: courses, teaching and attending professional conferences)

  • As an FY1, you are not contractually entitled to take formal study leave. You have access as a foundation trainee to have a formally taught education programme (which is up to 3 hours per week of bleep-free protected teaching time).
  • Applying for study leave will vary a lot between deaneries and hospital trusts so it is worth finding out what your local study leave policy by speaking to your postgraduate department or deanery.
  • Depending on your local policy, such applications for study leave usually require approval from either your educational supervisor, your clinical director for your rotation or ward consultant with close liaison with your ward team to ensure there is enough staff on that day.
  • Taster days – this a period of time, usually 2-5 days in which a Foundation trainee can experience a specialty that they have not worked in previously. This is a good opportunity to find out more about a specialty and aid career planning.
    • If you want taster days in a particular specialty, liaise with your postgraduate department who can help facilitate this and contact people in the specialty you are interested in (i.e. clinical director/consultant).

Sick days

If you are unwell on a workday, find out your hospital’s policy on calling in sick. It usually involves informing your medical staffing department (they usually have a sickness contact number) and informing your ward consultant, ward team or your supervisor if you are on a community placement.

  • You are allowed up to 20 sick days during each Foundation year before a review by your deanery is required to determine whether you require an extended period of training to be signed-off. It might be shorter in some deaneries so review local policy.
  • Please be aware that the time limits for allowances for sick pay are very short:
    • As an FY1, you are entitled to one month of full pay and (after completing four months of work), two months of half pay.
    • It is worth seeking independent financial advice for income protection especially if you have fallen ill during the year.
      • Chase De Vere is affiliated with the BMA and offer sound independent financial advice.

Useful resources

By Dr Theo Davis (FY2)

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