From 1 August, junior doctors will no longer be required to work more than 48 hours a week.
At least, that's the plan. This week, The Independent reported that the Royal College of Surgeons wants the new restriction on working hours to be postponed if the NHS shows any signs of buckling under the strain of swine flu.
About 100,000 people a week in the UK are being diagnosed with the virus and the RCS fears the NHS might collapse if healthcare staff fall ill and have to take time off work as a result of dealing with infected patients.
However, The Independent quotes a spokesman for the Department of Health as saying:
"Doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff can work longer hours when they need to. During national emergencies there are special provisions and flexibility within the regulations for emergency situations. Medical directors have plans in place to ensure NHS organisations are able to meet the needs of patients and that the hours doctors and other healthcare staff work are balanced over a period. Medical directors will carefully review the local situation as the current pandemic flu outbreak continues."
UK Working Time Regulations
The UK Working Time Regulations took effect in 1998. Under the Regulations, a person does not have to work more than 48 hours a week, unless they choose to do so, or work in a sector with its own special rules.
Junior doctors were initially excluded from the Regulations. That changed on 1 August 2004, when the hours of "doctors in training" were restricted to a maximum of 58 hours per week. At the end of this week, maximum working hours will be reduced still further -- to 48 hours -- to match the rules in place for most other workers in the UK.
** Additional Information & Advice **
You can obtain further information about working hour regulations and other employment issues on FindLaw.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, however, it may be better to speak with a solicitor who specialises in employment law. You can be matched with a solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action for your situation and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.