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Practices could offer financial help to GP trainees during strike, says BMA

by Julie Griffiths
15 June 2023

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Practices could consider giving a financial gift to their GP trainees to compensate them for lost pay during the junior doctor strikes, the BMA has said.

In employment guidance published about the current industrial action, the BMA said although there is no obligation, ‘there may be circumstances where practices feel that supporting their trainees with a financial payment roughly equivalent to a proportion of their lost wages is appropriate’.

Junior doctors began a 72-hour walkout on Wednesday (June 14), which will end at 7am this Saturday.

For practices wanting to offer financial support to trainees during the strike, the guide sets out recommended amounts. For ST1-2 doctors, it is £115 a day and for ST3-4 doctors, it is £135 a day.

These figures are roughly equivalent to their average take-home daily pay but the BMA says surgeries are ‘free to issue any payments to trainees’ they deem suitable.

Its guide also warns practices any financial gift would be considered a taxable benefit by HMRC and that income tax and National Insurance (NI) would be due.

NI rules differ based on who facilitates the GP trainee payment, but in general, it would be due by the practice, it explained.

If offering financial help, the BMA said it ‘strongly encourages’ practices to talk to their trainees to clarify the extent of the support, as the total length of strike action is uncertain.

Other key points the guidance includes are:

  • If payments are being made, it’s advisable to record the discussion around the issuing of these payments with trainees ‘to ensure clarity for all parties’.
  • Practices are obliged to inform the employer of the GP trainee of any payment since further NI may be due.
  • GP trainees are also required to declare any receipts on their self-assessment tax return. Where GP trainees do not receive a self-assessment tax return, they would need to contact HMRC directly.
  • Where a GP trainee receives a ‘gift payment’ from their practice but strike-related deductions from pay are not made for any reason, the trainee should let the practice know and discuss its return.

The BMA pointed out that practices can seek tailored tax advice through its appointed advisors Ernst & Young, though this must be self-funded.

Surgeries that feel unable to help financially can direct trainees to apply to the BMA’s strike fund, it added.

Earlier in the year, GP practices were advised by the BMA to cancel any clinics scheduled for GP trainees on days when junior doctors were striking.