There are a number of circumstances when a trainee may seek to spend some time out of the specialty training programme to which they have been appointed. All such requests need to be agreed by the Postgraduate Dean, so trainees are advised to discuss their proposals as early as possible. Time out of programme (OOP) will not normally be agreed until a trainee has been in a training programme for at least one year, unless at the time of appointment deferral of the start of the programme has been agreed, e.g. for statutory reasons.
The Gold Guide gives a full description of the types and details of OOP options.
OOP is applied for and granted through the Deanery and not the employer. When the OOP commences, trainees undertaking an OOP typically leave the NHS for the duration of the OOP. This means there will be an effect on pension and maternity rights but this will be more significant during the period that the doctor is outside NHS employment than when they return to the NHS.
In some cases, a trainee may undertake an OOP in another NHS organisation. In such circumstances pension and maternity rights will not be affected.
Our understanding is that employees (including doctors in training) cannot continue to contribute to the NHS Pension Scheme unless they are actually employed by an NHS organisation. The majority of OOP trainees are not.
Unfortunately there is no realistic way around this, as employers are unlikely to be prepared to pay pension contributions for a doctor in training whilst they leave the Trust (or indeed the country) on an OOP with no guarantee of them returning to that Trust.
Where an employer keeps the doctor on contract during OOP, they would pay employer pension contributions for the first 6 months. The employer would also need to check any other liabilities and accrued rights, as well as any limits of their local employment break scheme. In general it is unlikely that many employers would agree to keep the doctor employed whilst they were working for another employer on OOP, as there is no real incentive for them to take on those risks and costs.
When a doctor comes back from their OOP and starts working for an NHS organisation again, they can no longer pay Additional Voluntary Contributions on return to the NHS. However, doctors can continue to pay into the Pension Scheme for a period of time on OOP if they pay both the employee and employer contributions. The link below may be helpful, but you are advised to seek more information from the NHS Pensions Agency on this. NHS Pension Scheme :
Money Purchase AVC - Member FAQs
If the doctor’s maternity period occurs during the OOP placement, maternity rights would arise from the employment relationship. Trainees on OOP who are not employed by an NHS organisation would not be entitled to Occupational Maternity Pay from the NHS. It is unlikely that they would be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay, although this would have to be determined from their individual employment circumstances, but they could instead be entitled to claim Statutory Maternity Allowance (SMA) directly from the local jobcentre plus.
SMP and SMA are the same in terms of the amount of money the individual receives, but we understand that SMA is tax and NI free therefore it can actually be more advantageous for the doctor to claim SMA. Further information
If the doctor goes on maternity leave after they have returned to the NHS from their OOP, the OOP break is disregarded for the purposes of continuity of service. This means that they will be eligible for OMP as long as they have been had 12 months continuous service (disregarding the OOP) with one or more NHS employers by the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth. However, they will not be eligible for SMP unless they have 26 weeks continuous service with the same employer by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. As such they would probably need to claim SMA. This NHS factsheet below should be helpful.