The new UK junior doctor’s contract is a hot topic, it’s causing the first doctor strikes in history and is making doctors consider if they have a future in English medicine. But one of the far more shocking aspects about the contract is how it directly affects women.
First things first, I’m not a doctor. I’m not training to be a doctor. There are no doctors in my family. What I am, is a first year occupational therapy student finishing my first placement in a hospital. I’ve come in at a time where the politics of the new junior doctor’s contract is being talked over in the board rounds, over the lunch table in MDT meetings. Not just by doctors, but by the nurses and the therapists and the porters, because this is important. More important than even I realised, then I saw the video clip of Piers Morgan being put in his place after implying the strike was all about greed, I was shocked to learn that this contract also discriminates against women. Openly.
“Women, but not men, take maternity leave and some aspects of the new contract have certain adverse impacts regarding maternity” (Department of Health 2016). This is one quote in which the contract openly states the new contract will potentially unfairly affect those who take maternity leave. Why? Because the old contract pay increases were on time served which included when women went on maternity leave, therefore their pay increases would not be affected if they took time out to start a family (Department of Health 2016). The new contract means that doctors pay increase will be based on training, which women will not be able to do while when taking care of their new babies. So now, even though they will have worked the same amount of years, saved lives for as many years as their male counterparts, they will be paid less. This is the definition of a gender pay gap. That’s not the only way it discriminates however; “the new contract will adversely impact on those who work part-time” (Department of Health 2016) and guess which gender is the dominant in that field. Women. Because they have their families to take care of. Because they work part time in order to work another full time job as a mum.
This is discrimination. The purest form I’ve seen for a long time, the government hasn’t even tried to hide it. The thing is, they’re getting away with it. Because when I brought up the interview and the subject matter at lunch with my therapist colleagues not one of them had heard about it: not from doctors or nurses, and these are people who want to know about the strike. People who are interested in the information, the rights and the wrongs because it’s their work place. It’s hard to escape from it when you’re working beside the people it’s affecting. So why would the general public have any clue if even those in the very hospitals doctors are reluctantly walking out of, don’t.
Even worse the equality analysis states that while women who do not have family support will be of course be “adversely affected” by the new evening and weekend hours due to child care costs being higher, those who do have family support should be better off(Department of Health 2016). This equality analysis genuinely states that women should have their families take care of their children so that they can work. That’s not equality, that’s not a solution, that’s saying that women should have family support and if they don’t well what does it matter. Should they have even have had the children in the first place? Whether a contract affects women adversely should not depend on their family circumstances. It shouldn’t see a woman’s role as a mother or a guardian as an obstacle to them being able to fully participate in their job. To be able to get the full benefits of their job. The job should cater to the woman, women should not have to carve up their roles as either good doctors or good mothers in order to be paid what they are worth.
Let me be clear, the contract will also discriminate against men in similar positions as sole care providers. But as the contract states, that group will be “disproportionately women” (Department of Health 2016). Which means that women are the ones who are going to be hurt the most by this contract. Which it recognises but doesn’t care about as shown in this quote from the equality analysis “Any indirect adverse effect on women is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.” (Department of Health 2016) This new contract is undeniably discriminatory and yet it states that it can be advantageous for those with a partner because childcare will be easier in the evenings and weekends. That might even be true but it’s not the point, just because you give some women an advantage, it doesn’t make it equal or good. Every woman whether they have a partner to look after their children or not, should be looked after in this new contract. Especially since their livelihood is going to be looking after us.
Department of Health (2016) Junior doctors’ contract: equality analysis and family test. Uk gouverment, 23-26.
Anon (2016) Junior Doctor Slams Sexism In Controversial New Contract | Good Morning Britain. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqxazE16TnE (accessed 01/ 05/ 16).
Anon (2016) Junior doctors’ row: The dispute explained – BBC News. BBC News. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34775980 (accessed 01/ 05/ 16).