- Posted Monday September 2, 2019
Recently our salaried GP received a letter stating she was being called for jury service. The dates that they specified were an absolute no-no for us - they were the same weeks that our senior, full-time partner was on leave.
My initial reaction was "please ask for the date to be moved". I'm not quite sure yet, but I think my response at this point really should have been "please state you are a first-line clinician in the NHS and we can't spare you for two weeks".
A letter was sent refusing those weeks and a summons for a new fortnight came through, with dates later in the year - not ideal for us, but definitely manageable. My conversation with her then turned to the fact that payment would come through the courts rather than us, something that she had not even thought about.
The right thing to do?
My reaction and our practice policy bothered me. Were we right to refuse to pay her? I posted on the FPM Forum to gather some information and asked questions on the Facebook groups that I belong to. It appeared that everyone has a different way of dealing with it. Like everything in general practice, interpretation was local.
Some colleagues had never thought to include it in any policies, some had paid their staff when they had been called, others had made up the difference between the court payments and the regular salary payment, and others, like us, didn’t pay.
Reaching out for advice
It must be something that other practices are thinking about, as a newsletter from another PM resource recently talked about the legalities of what to do when you are called. All that information is readily available, and that wasn’t the bit I was struggling with. It was the fairness and duty that I wanted to be sure we covered. Doctors would surely be the right kind of people to appear on a jury, the kind of people that you would want to offer a fair, educated verdict if it was your family or friend who had been the victims of crime?
The right thing to do for the legal system would be to allow her the time; the right thing for the practice would be to ask her to decline the call. Both ways had the potential to cause stress.
Covering all angles
We recently took out some Locum Insurance that we thought might provide a solution, and a way that we could pay her. Consistency still bothered me. We couldn’t have, or afford to have, insurance for all of our staff. When we looked at the detail we found that although it does offer us cover, it’s at a rate that wouldn’t afford us a half-day locum, let alone leave us money to pay the salaried GP.
Another action for me – look into whether we should ditch the insurance and have a savings plan instead.
Would it be a hardship?
On examination, a practice doesn’t have to pay their employed staff member, instead they will complete a form for the courts which will work out the reimbursement of costs and expenses - but clearly for a GP this will not cover their salary.
If it’s for an administrative staff member would there be considerable hardship for them if we didn’t pay them? If a case went on for weeks or months could they manage? Could we? These are all questions that we will be discussing at our next Partners meeting to ensure that next time this happens we are fair, prepared and ready - because there will be a next time I’m sure.
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