I’ve blogged recently about the junior doctors’ new contract and the strike actions across the NHS.
It’s usually quite hard for an employer to force a new contract on employees while acting within the law. It’s harder still when you add pressure from a government minister into the employer-employee mix.
In the latest twist in the junior doctors’ dispute, documents seen by the Guardian suggest that Jeremy Hunt has abandoned plans to impose the new contract. Instead, the new contract will be introduced as and when existing contracts expire.
Hunt’s u-turn came a few days before a legal challenge by 5 junior doctors begins in the High Court against the government’s decision to impose the new contract (see #JUSTHEALTH and find their crowdfunding page here).
As I said before, normally, a change in the terms of your contract can only occur with your express or implied consent. A new contract cannot lawfully be forced on an employee who protests against the change and disputes should be resolved by negotiation.
That Jeremy Hunt led Parliament, the media and the NHS to believe that he had powers to get around UK contract law and force the new contract on junior doctors simply adds to the scale of the political fallout in this dispute.