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NHS permanent contract, WFH but no work one day - do I have to make up the hours?

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I work as a medical secretary in our local General Hospital.  I've been in the same department for 6 years, 5 as bank staff and 1 year as permanent, my contract is for 18.5 hours, which I do over four days with a short day on Friday; I'm the only secretary in the unit.  Since Covid I've been working from home (which the hospital has encouraged staff to do) but go into the department on one day per week.  A few weeks ago I was logged on and ready to work when I got a call from my manager at about 11 30 a.m. to say there would be no letters to do that day, so I could either owe them the time or take it as holiday.


My question is if I'm ready to work according to my contract, but there is no work, should I have to "owe" the hours or use my holiday with an unexpected (and unasked for) day off.  While no the question was left up in the air when this happened it has now arisen again because I did an extra day last week and I hoped to get TOIL on my birthday next week but have now been told I should use that extra day to cover the day when there was no work for me.


Due to the extra work everyone in the NHS has done due to Covid I don't really want to make a big thing of this - I love working with my colleagues in the department - but I would like to know whether my boss is correct that I have to make the time up.  I was ready to work; is it my fault if there wasn't enough for me to do that day? 

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I presume you aren't in a union ('cos that's who you should be asking)?


Depends what is in your contract.  I tend to agree with you that I'd be unhappy too if I was ready and prepared to work and at the last minute was told by a manager that there was nothing for you to do and to take the day out of my annual leave.  It ought to be the role of a manager to "manage" the flow of work so that this is not necessary - I personally don't think you should lose time/annual leave because there's no work for you.  (I'm a former NHS manager - surely there's always work that needs doing?).


But see what your contract says.


But number 1 task, join a union.  Probably too late to assist with this problem but they'll help you out when your manager tries this again in future.


(NB - there's actually no such thing as a "permanent" job anywhere, but particularly not in the NHS.  What you have is a substantive post).

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Hi Manxman

Yes, I'm a Unison member.  I spoke to someone earlier this year when this happened once before.  He felt (but wasn't absolutely sure) that this was wrong.

I'm typing the clinic letters at home (connected to the hospital network with a VPN) as soon as they're dictated by the nurses (this is a nurse-led unit).  If they have no patients to see, then no letters.  It's not really the managers fault either - just the situation with Covid!  Perhaps I work to fast and should space the letters out a bit myself, then this wouldn't happen!  I go into the office once a week to print out and post the letters of the week before and  and do any other bits and pieces.

Thanks for the advice and I'll check again with my union (and look for my contract!)

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Not wanting to be unfair but it's a fact that not all local union reps are equal - some are better than others or are just better at certain things than others.


Depending how much this is concerning you, I'd speak to your union rep again and press them for an answer.  If they don't know for sure say that of course you understand they can't know everything, but can't they get a definitive answer for you from someone else?  Ask to speak to another rep or ask to speak to someone at the regional office.


(I had quite a complicated problem a few years ago and my local rep - who otherwise was very good - was completely out of their depth.  They got someone from the regional office involved and they were brilliant)

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