Is your partnership deed ready for parental leave and sickness absence changes?
Changes to the GMS Contract mean partners in GP practices need to take a close look at their partnership deed, writes Justin Cumberlege, a healthcare specialist at law firm Cripps.
Partners do not have employment rights in respect of absences, so they have no statutory parental or sick pay. Instead, provision is usually made in the partnership deed, which takes into account any allowance made by the NHS under the provisions of the practice’s GMS or PMS Contract, and then the insurance cover which the practice may have.
At the time of writing (14 March) the available information states that as from 1 April 2017 the GMS Contract and PMS agreements (the Contract) will include improved arrangements covering parental leave and sickness absence, paid for by the NHS.
Does your partnership deed take into account the changes in the Contract? The general consensus is that these payments would become less generous over time, however the 2017 Contract variation demonstrates support for practices. Whereas in the past practices were advised to limit payments to absent partners, backed against appropriate insurance cover, it is now clear that practices can be more generous, given NHS funding support.
Sickness cover reimbursement
The current position (at the time of writing) provides for discretionary reimbursement for sick partners, with the size of payments made according to list size and the requirement for cover by a locum – all of which provide challenges for practices trying to reclaim costs for a partner’s absence due to sickness.
The Contract change entitles practices to claim payments from NHS England, beginning when the absence is two weeks or more and increasing from £1,131.74 to £1,743.18 per week. This sum can be claimed for 26 weeks, and then half the sum for the following 26 weeks. The qualifying criteria, based on list size, have been removed, with external locums and existing GPs within the practice who do not work full time being paid to provide cover for sickness.
Parental leave payments
Currently parental leave is determined in proportion to hours worked. The new Contract provides for reimbursement of the lower of actual or invoiced costs up to the maximum amounts as set out in the Statement of Financial Entitlements. This will be amended to allow £1,734.18 per week to be claimed and paid.
You should review your locum insurance cover to see if it can be reduced considering the NHS funding for sickness cover. If the provisions in your partnership deed are backed onto your insurance cover, you need to change this as well to avoid the potential of a dispute in the future as to what is paid to an absent partner.
Your partnership deed may provide for changes to the Contract, but it is important to ensure you review your agreement, making any necessary amendments with a deed of variation to reflect the changes in the Contract, and also your insurance cover. Given the presumption of tighter funding in the past few years, it is very possible there will now be a conflict between the partnership deed and the Contract, which could result in a dispute.
For advice in relation to healthcare law, please speak to Justin Cumberlege on 01732 224107 or email him at email@example.com.
As first seen in Practice Management on 1 April 2017.